Early childhood centre to use grant to revamp vege patch

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Invercargill's Best Start North Road pupils Jordan McNaty (left) and Lexie Karauria, (both 3), pick produce from the vegetable and fruit garden ahead of renovations.  Photo: Abbey Palmer

CHILDREN at Best Start North Road are reeling with excitement over an upgrade announcement for their community vegetable garden, centre manager Gemma Cairns says.

The early education centre was the only learning provider in Southland to receive a Growing for Good grant from Countdown aimed at helping encourage tamariki (children) to protect New Zealand’s environment.

“We couldn’t believe it when we got the grant, it was just mind-blowing.

“Our vege garden desperately needs a revamp and it’s a really good opportunity to make something that can be of real value, not just to the children but to the whole community.”

While 33 other awardees across the country were using their funding for various sustainability-focused projects, Best Start North Road would use the $1000 to renovate its existing vegetable garden.

“We want to get rid of the plant beds that are already there and install some raised garden beds, as well as implement a gate entrance for better access for the community.”

Ms Cairns said the purpose of Countdown’s grant “tied-in” to the centre’s values, as sustainability had always been “a big part” of its practice.

“It’s a really important project for us, we’ve grown fruits and veges for the community and children often pick stuff and offer it to their whanau.

“The tamariki take turns at taking care of it and each classroom has a go at doing it.”

Produce was also used to feed families’ animals and scraps were fed to one of the teacher’s pigs.

She said the centre’s focus on sustainable living and protecting the environment was beneficial in many ways.

“We have lots of rural families with children who come here that are already living that lifestyle at home, so it reflects their home routine, and other children can introduce it to their families and share information with them at home.”

Children at the centre had been “really involved” with coming up with ideas for the garden, including introducing a community library stand, she said.

The project was expected to take one to three months to complete and a community working bee would be organised later this month.

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