Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

From primary school desks to Depot table

Chef Al Brown helps Jolene Huang plant rhubarb at Meadowbank School. Photo / Holly Ryan
Chef Al Brown helps Jolene Huang plant rhubarb at Meadowbank School. Photo / Holly Ryan

If Al Brown has his way, every restaurant in the city will have a dish designed and with ingredients grown by a primary school somewhere in Auckland - thanks to Garden to Table.

The Garden to Table scheme launched in New Zealand in 2009 and has expanded to more than 40 schools across New Zealand. The not-for-profit encourages children at schools to work together to grow, harvest, prepare and share food - teaching them valuable life skills in the process.

The latest pilot programme, aimed at partnering restaurants with Garden to Table schools, began when chef and Depot owner Al Brown visited Owairaka Primary School in Mount Albert.

"It's a decile 2 school and I visited about a year ago and didn't really know what to expect but I was just blown away," Brown said. "The kids were getting their hands dirty, making compost, digging in the soil, planting things, harvesting and then into the kitchen where they were cooking everything they had grown and sitting and eating it together," he said.

"It was the best hour I've had in a long time."

The visit inspired Brown to partner with Meadowbank, another Garden to Table school.

Having planted more than 30 rhubarb plants along with Depot staff and students from the school, Brown is planning to design a dessert with the students, which will be sold at Depot in November.

Money from the desserts will go back into the Garden to Table programme and Brown is encouraging other restaurants to get on board.

"This is really the pilot programme to see how it will all work but there's so much that can be gained from this for everyone," Brown said.

"I think if we can keep doing these things and get more schools and more restaurants involved it's something that's benefiting the whole community. It's not rocket science, it's just common sense."

Depot staff with children from Meadowbank School. Photo / Holly Ryan
Depot staff with children from Meadowbank School. Photo / Holly Ryan

The Meadowbank community has also been involved in the project with Sunhill Garden Centre donating plants to the school.

The Garden to Table project has been gaining momentum across New Zealand with the latest annual Warehouse Gala Dinner raising $765,000 for a joint initiative supporting the project and Life Education Trust.

- NZ Herald

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