The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust is proud to announce its sponsorship of Oke, a local charity providing Kiwi kids from impoverished communities the opportunity to experience the benefits of growing their own fruit and vegetable garden.
Established in 2015, Oke has built gardens at 14 primary schools, gifting more than 10,000 tamariki across South Auckland from Mangere to Drury, with a school garden to grow and learn in.
With the recent Poverty Monitor report indicating that one in five of our tamariki live with food insecurity, the need for initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of young New Zealanders has never been greater. 5+ A Day Chair David Smith says the Oke ‘Growing a Future’ initiative is critical to tamariki in deprived communities.
“The alignment between the two charities is clear. We’re both striving for affordable, sustainable solutions to address the problems facing our younger generation,” says Smith.
Oke Founder, Paul Dickson says the partnership with 5+ A Day ensures the sustainability of programme.
“With grant funds in short supply since COVID-19 and growing food insecurity in the communities we work with, the importance of a partnership like this can’t be understated. We’re really looking forward to working together to improve the health and wellbeing of Aotearoa’s most vulnerable tamariki.
“With support from partners such as 5+ A Day, we have the funds to both build school gardens and know that the ongoing operation of the charity is secure,” says Dickson.
In the beginning Dickson saw the gardens as primarily a tool to teach children the origins of their food.
“It quickly changed from being about growing food to being an outdoor classroom, a place for teachers to take their tamariki to learn about science or maths or any other area of the curriculum.
“Kids with learning difficulties or short attention spans learn much better in a hands-on, natural environment. Unfortunately, most of the schools in these urban areas are more of a concrete jungle, and our gardens have provided a much-needed outdoor education space for teaching and learning,” says Dickson.
While schools are often sent seeds or have garden beds constructed, Oke goes a step further in establishing a sustainable, achievable garden project in partnership with the school which is built through a community working bee. The charity provides schools with raised beds, a greenhouse, composting solutions, kids’ tools, irrigation and other essential resources; along with the education required to maintain them.
“These kids are missing a long-term connection to the outdoors. We approach schools that are looking for a forward-thinking resource which will serve their community for many years to come and we partner with organisations such as 5+ A Day to ensure we can fund a viable project,” says Dickson.
Each year Oke builds three to five gardens, but this year the aim is for six.
Connecting tamariki to the outdoors is a vital part of their learning and development. Nutrition research conducted overseas indicates that children who learn to grow and cook their own food consume, on average, an extra half serving of vegetables each day and that’s a statistic the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust wants to see replicated here in Aotearoa.*
The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust already support the successful Fruit and Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative that will provide over 26 million serves of fresh produce to decile one and two schools this year alone.
“The gardens built by Oke provide students and teachers with a vital, practical tool that we hope will make them lifelong, passionate gardeners with a deep understanding of the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables,” says Smith.