Pick of the Crop thriving in Bundaberg and Wide Bay 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 set to reach more schools in Bundaberg and expanding to include Wide Bay schools for the first time.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland’s Pick of the Crop program is open to 100 schools across the state in 2022, which includes 21 new schools that can sign on in the Wide Bay and Bundaberg area.

The expansion brings the number of eligible schools in the region to 45 – potentially giving more than 10,000 local students the opportunity to learn about, grow and taste veggies and fruit.

It comes on the back of a promising report card of the 2021 pilot rolled out in 35 schools across Bundaberg, Bowen 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 our 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 helping set 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 Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetables Growers, 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.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Chief Executive Officer Bree Grima said she was thrilled to be involved with the expanded program.

“As one of the largest growing regions in Australia, providing 25 per cent of Queensland’s fresh produce, it makes sense for this program to be hosted in the region,” she said.

“Through this program with Health and Wellbeing Queensland we’re bringing the farm to the classroom and are showcasing how easy it can be to incorporate healthy options into lunchboxes and onto dinner plates.”

Since recruitment of the expanded area began, more than 20 state primary schools in the Bundaberg and Wide Bay region have already jumped on board.

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 Bundaberg schools (almost 3000 local students) were part of the pilot.
  • 100 Queensland schools are eligible to take part in 2022, up from 60 in 2021, with a potential reach of 35,000 students.
  • 45 schools in the Bundaberg and Wide Bay region are eligible to sign on in 2022, with a potential reach of about 10,000 students.