Stephanie Alexander, with Vanessa Orth in background

23 September 2011 – Foodwriter, chef and restaurateur Stephanie Alexander yesterday launched Kitchen Garden Week at The GPT Group’s Rouse Hill Town Centre as part of a movement to bring fresh food awareness to more people.

According to Ms Alexander who started the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation for schools in 2001, the collaboration with GPT would enable a reach to a greater number of people.

“Working with GPT has enabled the SAKGF to take our message to a broader audience, while providing GPT’s customers,” Ms Alexander said.

Vanessa Orth, national director of retail, property and asset management for The GPT Group, said:”A lot of the families we see in our centre can touch and feel the experience and take it back home and to schools.”

There were kitchen gardens at seven GPT centres with more on the way, Ms Orth said.

“We will have one at Highpoint (in Melbourne) which is under development,  Charlestown Square and Casuarina Square in the Northern Territory.”

The program had struck a note with the staff’s competitive spirit, Ms Orth claimed.

“Everyone is so competitive; they all want to have a better garden.

“This is benchmark, the challenge is out there for our staff.”

Ms Alexander said the Kitchen Gardens, which started in schools, in were now her major activity, other than writing.

“We started in 2001 and will have over 200 schools by the end of this year, all over Australia. We have one in Flinders Island, another in Coober Pedy and and another near Kalgoorlie.”

“The challenge is to support these schools is huge and we are developing support mechanisms all the time,” she said.

It was also important to understand that the movement to fresh food and growing fresh food was in its infancy.

Although there was a growing number of people running community markets and gardens around fresh food, overall numbers were still very low.

Fresh food was a “definite movement, especially in the developed world people are taking more interest ” Ms Alexander said, “but it is definitely a minority, a very small minority.

“It is really important that people who run community markets and community gardens don’t get a sense they are changing the world because this is still very alien to the experiences of almost all the people who shop.”

Sue Connell principal of Hebersham Primary School, whose students were key participants in the program and prepared some of the food for the festivities, said the program had a strong social impact at her school’s community, not just in relation to enthusiasm about food growing, but also socially, with more parents participating in activities around the gardens.

The school’s new hall, Ms Connell said, had been designed to include a canteen but this had been converted to food preparation areas instead so that children could learn to cook the food they had grown.

– By Tina Perinotto, tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au