Pick of the Crop puts veggies and fruit on the menu for thousands of Queensland students

Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld) is excited to announce the expansion of its Pick of the Crop program. 

The program aims to reach 100 schools this year and inspire thousands of students across Queensland to learn about and eat more vegetables and fruit. 

Since HWQld launched Pick of the Crop in 2020, the program has reached 68 schools in Bowen and the Burdekin, Bundaberg and Wide Bay, Logan and other regions. 

This year Pick of the Crop is expanding to schools in the Darling Downs and South West education regions, in addition to reaching more schools in the existing regions of South East Queensland (Logan and Redlands), North Queensland (Bowen and the Burdekin) and North Coast (Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Maryborough and Gympie). 

To make this happen, HWQld is proud to work in partnership with local implementation partners who host regional coordinators to engage with and support schools in creating a positive food culture across their school communities. 

New implementation partners onboard include Bowen Gumlu Growers Association , Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service (Darling Downs Health) and South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS) who are working with schools in North Queensland, Darling Downs and South West regions respectively. 

Bowen Gumlu Growers Association CEO, Ry Collins, said the North Queensland region with its flourishing fruit and vegetable farms, producing tomatoes, mangoes, melons and capsicums was ideal for the expansion of the Pick of the Crop program to more schools across other areas of the region. 

“From tuckshop menus to farmer in the classroom initiatives, school gardens and ensuring events include locally grown veggies and fruit, primary schools will be encouraged to explore a range of locally designed actions that build on some of the great teaching and learning strategies already in place,” Mr Collins said. 

Darling Downs Health Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Danielle Schefe said Pick of the Crop is supporting local schools in the Darling Downs region to inspire primary school students to increase their understanding of food production and consumption of fruit and vegetables through classroom teaching and learning, that will encourage an appreciation of the region’s farming sector. 

“Through Pick of the Crop, students will be able to learn and experience farm to fork, gain more insights into the value of fruit and vegetables, along with how they, and their families, can support the local produce sector,” Ms Schefe said.   

South West Hospital and Health Service, Senior Community Nutritionist, Rohan Ballon, said the South West region including the Roma, Charleville and St George, with their flourishing crops of chickpeas, barley, mung beans, carrots, onions and table grapes, was ideal for the expansion of the Pick of the Crop program.  

“We recognise the importance of healthy eating in schools, which is crucial for students to be able to learn and perform well, and we are seeing wonderful ideas from teachers on how they can enhance their students’ consumption of vegetables and fruit by participating in Pick of the Crop,” Mr Ballon said.  

HWQld Chief Executive, Dr Robyn Littlewood applauded the expansion of Pick of the Crop, which has been made possible through partnerships with the local implementation partners.  

“Health and Wellbeing Queensland is proud of the Pick of the Crop healthy eating program, which provides increased opportunities for primary school students to learn about and eat more vegetables and fruit,” Dr Littlewood said.  

“With only 2.8% of 5–17 years-old eating the recommended five serves of veggies a day, this program has never been more critical. 

“Through our implementation partners, regional coordinators are working with schools to engage and support the development of locally designed school action plans that create a whole school healthy environment. 

“These partnerships are great news, extending the reach of Pick of the Crop to more schools and more students, while also connecting with local producers and farmers to make schools a healthy place to be.” 

HWQld is proud to continue working with its existing Pick of the Crop implementation partners, as they expand their reach to schools across their region: 

Schools participating in the program can access small grants of up to $7,000 to implement Pick of the Crop actions. These actions may include education activities that involve visits to farms or visits by farmers to schools, classroom cooking sessions, the development or expansion of school gardens, support for tuckshop menu improvements, or the organising of events and initiatives that build on existing teaching and learning strategies.  

To find out more about the Pick of the Crop program, visit hw.qld.gov.au/pick-of-the-crop