A new partnership between Westgold Butter and Charitable Trust Garden to Table is encouraging the next generation of Kiwi cooks and bakers to get creative in the kitchen, while also teaching them where their food comes from.
Garden to Table currently operates in more than 200 schools across New Zealand, providing curriculum-linked learning opportunities for children by teaching them to grow and prepare their own food. Along with generous support for the Trust, the partnership with Westgold also sees Westland Milk Products supplying the Trust with its butter for a number of national initiatives, including the Garden to Table Bake Sale fundraiser taking place this month.
Hamish Yates, Westland’s General Manager of Sales and Marketing, says as well as raising funds for the schools’ programme, the Bake Sale will encourage children to "get creative and comfortable with the chemistry and the creativity that goes with baking".
"It comes back to that good, wholesome element of what a bake sale used to be, when we used to roll the sleeves up and fundraise that way."
Yates says working with Garden to Table was an easy decision for the Westgold brand, which prides itself on creating high-quality butter to "drive confidence and creativity for people in their kitchen".
"It's incredibly important to start [cooking] from a very young age, and the way in which Garden to Table operate their programme and bring it into schools, focusing on life skills is something that really resonates with us," he says.
According to the Charitable Trust, more than 22,000 primary and intermediate students took part in the Garden to Table programme in 2021, growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing more than 800,000 vegetable-based meals.
By teaching tamariki the fundamentals of growing and preparing their own food, the programme teaches core subjects, while getting kids' hands dirty in the garden. The round-the-year teaching also means children can see how seasons affect food growing cycles, showing them from a young age that food doesn't just magically appear on the supermarket shelf.
"Allowing everyone to understand where their food comes from, as well as the people and communities behind it, is really important," says Yates.
"And our Westgold butter is a perfect example. It not only starts with the farmers who are looking after and milking the cows, but there's everyone involved in getting it from the farm to the factory, it being churned by our staff and then everything involved to get it on the shelf, including salespeople and engagement with supermarkets. All those kinds of things - it doesn't just turn up."
By providing Garden to Table schools with a staple food item such as butter, Yates says the company also hopes to nurture the confidence that comes with having a solid understanding of basic cooking and baking skills.
"It comes down to that comfort in the kitchen and knowing what to do with some staple ingredients - whether it's [using] a few things that you've got in your pantry, or understanding what seasonable items means, and why buying local is a great idea," he says.
As well as helping children learn about where food comes from, and how to grow food sustainability in schools and home gardens, Yates says the programme also encourages creativity in the kitchen.
"I think the earlier we can get children comfortable and introduced to the principle of creativity and being free to create in the kitchen is really important. It breaks down the need to have letter-to-letter recipes to follow, which can be daunting and confronting. Being able to cook is a life skill that we're very pleased to help encourage."
Studies have also shown that the programme encourages children to be more adventurous when it comes to the food they eat, with research commissioned by the Healthy Futures Charitable Trust showing students who took part in Garden to Table were more willing to try new foods and also increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Yates says as well as supplying butter, the company is also committed to providing funding and supporting educational resources "to help educate the kids where butter comes from and how it's made".
This article was created for Westgold.