Initiative set to change the way we eat

By Hannah Williams

Fern pereira and Susan Swolfs teach eager parents healthy options. Photo supplied.

We are what we eat and it’s time to change.

Clean Plate hit the Howick Library on Monday to teach new and experienced parents, carers of primary and preschool children, through a lunchbox workshop.

It included nutrition tips, cooking, tasting demos, and an environmental discussion on reducing food and packaging waste.

Clean Plate was established to give early childhood education centres and the extended community some healthy, alternative lunch ideas for children via menu plans and meal ideas for toddlers and under-fives.

Started by Fern Pereira and Susan Swolfs, a chef and an early childhood teacher, they decided enough was enough as early childhood centres needed guidance.

“Centres could use our help because if they don’t have a person who’s really interested or passionate about that, [sustainability and composting] it can be really hard to get started,” says Mrs Swolfs.

Clean Plate started the lunchbox workshops after creating the Clean Plate less waste initiative alongside Love Food, Hate Waste New Zealand.

It’s a pilot project that aims to reduce food and packaging waste across early learning centres by taking on the Clean Plate menu planning system in conjunction with introducing composting systems.

The project aims to get the younger generation involved, teaching them from a young age the importance of wellbeing and environmental issues like healthy living and composting.

“Getting kids involved in the cooking, as well as learning about what’s healthy and then getting involved in the composting or gardening aspect as well, they do go hand in hand with each other,” says Mrs Swolfs.

Part of the new project is organising workshops catering to parents and teaching efficient and healthy lunch options, that both parents and children will enjoy.

Part of the workshops involved making and trying their healthly food alternatives. Photo supplied.

Fern and Susan noticed the need for more information, training, and assistance, related to healthy eating and young children and so Clean Plate was invented.

They created a goal to create a space for those in the industry to share, innovate, and encourage healthy eating, while sharing recipes and ideas with locals.

“[We] try to customise to the public and early childhood settings depending on their specific needs, such as culture [and] we try to give some variations to the recipes,” says Mrs Pereira.

Funded by the Howick Local Board, the lunchbox workshops were created to try introduce a healthier living style to parents and children with hopes of spreading the project across east Auckland in the long term.

“[We’re] trying to help and empower people to go out there and produce their own food, that is wholesome and package free, instead of going to the supermarket.

“[We] want to give advice that everyone can understand.”