Preparing healthy meals for the homeless and engaging with whānau around wellbeing are just some of the reasons a Whangārei kindergarten has received a Healthy Heart Award.
BestStart Regent Kindy in Whangārei has received a Pā-Harakeke Award from the Heart Foundation - a gold standard award granted to early learning services which have implemented a healthy eating and physical activity environment and extended it into the wider community.
May Padonan, BestStart Regent Kindy manager, said they were celebrating the award which they had won for the second time.
"It was a great journey to our gold award. But the more important treasure that we achieved is the wealth of good health and well-being, solidarity of the community and compassion for and with one another. That is gold," she said.
The kindergarten's "healthy heart journey" began in 2017 when they learned about the awards.
Padonan said the kindergarten started off by working with children and whanau to make lunchboxes healthy, and supporting whānau to understand the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating habits to children's development and long-term health.
They also engaged in lots of activities and seminars to educate children, staff and parents of the importance of active movement.
"These endeavours yielded positive outcomes that inspired us more to keep going and weave these healthy practices in our daily routines."
But the work didn't stop there. Padonan said the kindergarten then decided to expand the understanding of health by extending the work out to the Whangārei community.
This included a monthly commitment to feed the homeless through Soulfood Whangārei.
"The staff and the children worked together to prepare healthy meals from donated produce and other goods from our children's whānau and other BestStart centres.
"Through the shared resources that we have gathered, we are able to share the gift of good health through healthy heart meals," she said.
The kindergarten also helps the Cancer Society and Plunket through fundraising, while promoting healthy eating and active movement; and the partnership the kindergarten has with Parahaki Court Rest Home encouraged them to provide healthy food, drinks and treats to the children and residents during shared kai.
"As our children become more involved in our community, their concept of fairness, social justice and whanaungatanga [togetherness] grow."