It didn’t take long for staff at Allan Brewster Leisure Centre to notice the change.
“It took no more than a month before all the kids were enjoying the new healthy meals being provided,” says Faatuai Stuart, recreation programmer for the Out of school care (OSCAR) programme.
“One parent later came up to me and said how their child was now eating more vegetables at dinner. It is great to see the change in their diets at home as well as here at Allan Brewster.”
Children attending OSCAR or Kauri Kids Early Childhood Education programmes at the Papatoetoe-based leisure centre have seen their morning and afternoon meals transform over the past 12 months into healthier options like fruit platters and pita pockets.
“The changes are noticeable not only with the kids but also parents and staff,” says Kauri Kids headteacher Neelam Mudalier.
“Our parents used to prepare lunch boxes that included chips and sugary snacks. But since they now see their children getting nutritious meals for morning and afternoon tea, they’re starting to pack their lunchboxes with just simple healthy food like sandwiches and yogurt.”
“And with staff, we’ve now got a more efficient system that allows us to know what meals we are preparing each week. Before this change in our approach, we were looking at what was in the cupboard and starting from there.”
The improvement in nutrition has been done with support from The Southern Initiative and Healthy Families South Auckland as part of its Healthy Environment Approach.
Healthy Environment Approach is an initiative which promotes healthy principles through the four South Auckland Local Board via leisure centres, community grants, community facilities and places.
Annie Reilly is senior manager of several OSCAR and school holiday programmes and says the initiative has had a positive effect. Recent data taken over a three-month period showed 38,000 healthy meals had been served in South Auckland Kauri Kids and OSCAR programmes.
“They’ve (staff) have been driving this initiative with support from Healthy Families South Auckland and it has proven to be a real educational tool on how to budget for better ingredients and serve it in a way that the children will enjoy,” she says.
“A recent evaluation we did has shown significant increases in confidence and efficiency of staff in providing healthier kai. Feedback has been very positive with the children learning the importance of healthy eating and taking that knowledge back home to share with their whānau.”
Healthy Families South Auckland ran workshops with staff from all the South Auckland-based OSCAR and Kauri Kids programmes to reset budgets and ensure a focus on healthy kai.
“The main aim is to get better equity with health outcomes in South Auckland and the Kauri Kids and OSCAR programmes were two services by Auckland Council where we can achieve that,” says Healthy Families South Auckland manager George Makapatama.
“None of this work can be done without the leadership of our four South Auckland local boards, Parks, Sport and Recreation and the staff working at OSCAR Kids Club and Kauri Kids to ensure our children enjoy the best healthy kai from an early age.”