Pick of the Crop thriving in Bowen and the Burdekin as survey shows kids reap benefits

A program to get Queensland kids eating more veggies and fruit is shifting students’ attitudes towards eating their greens, initial results suggest – and it’s open to local schools again this year in the region.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland’s Pick of the Crop program is growing in 2022 to reach up to 100 schools, which includes 21 schools eligible to sign on in Bowen and the Burdekin.

Bowen was picked as one of the pilot locations for Pick of the Crop. Last year about 1600 local students got the opportunity to learn about, grow and taste veggies and fruit through the healthy eating program.

The program’s expansion comes on the back of a promising report card of the 2021 pilot rolled out across 35 schools in Bowen, Bundaberg and Logan.

In an evaluation survey of schools that were part of the trial, all agreed that:

  • Students had increased knowledge about vegetables and fruit.
  • Students had improved attitudes towards eating vegetables and fruit.
  • There was greater awareness among students of locally produced fruit and vegetables.
  • Vegetables and fruit were more available at school, including as snacks at school events.
  • Students and families had more access to produce from school gardens.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland Chief Executive, Dr Robyn Littlewood, says the results are an encouraging sign that the program can make a difference to the future health of Queensland kids.

“For the first time in Queensland we are realising the true benefits of such a program with the research to back this up,” Dr Littlewood said.

“We’re thrilled that this program is helping students boost their knowledge and skills around the region’s great-tasting produce and that kids are willing to try more fruit and vegetables.

“Vegetables and fruit are vital to our health, but we know Queensland kids aren’t eating enough of them. Only about five per cent of children are eating the recommended five serves of vegetables every day.

“The power of Pick of the Crop is that it’s setting up our children with healthy eating habits and doing it in partnership with our farmers promoting local produce. We’re keen to build on this success and put veggies and fruit on the menu at more schools.”

Supported by HWQld and a regional co-ordinator, hosted by Bowen State School, the program creates opportunities for kids to get a taste for healthy eating through activities, which range from school gardens and classroom lessons to veggie and fruit-focused events.

Up to $5,000 in funding is available to new schools to get activities off the ground, and continuing schools have the opportunity to access grants of up to $2,000 to sustain Pick of the Crop projects.

Flourishing project

  • Pick of the Crop reached 35 schools and about 10,000 students across Queensland in 2021.
  • 13 schools in Bowen (about 1600 local students) were part of the pilot, with another three schools already signed up to the program this year.
  • 100 Queensland schools are eligible to take part in 2022, up from 60 in 2021, with a potential reach of 35,000 students.
  • 21 schools across Bowen and the Burdekin are eligible to sign on in 2022, with a potential reach of almost 3500 students.

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