Today’s guest is Amelia Berner from Oz Harvest’s FEAST. Amelia is OzHarvest’s Food Education and Sustainability Training (FEAST) Program Manager, which combines nutrition, food waste and sustainability in a curriculum ready package for Australian primary schools.
Amelia’s passion for nutrition and environmental education stems from a decade of experience as High School TAS teacher and working as a practicing nutritionist. This enabled her to develop the FEAST education program that ensures all children have the ability to learn where food comes from, how it is prepared sustainably and not waste it.
For more info on the FEAST program for schools, check out our blog, Food Sustainability and Nutrition Education with OzHarvest’s Feast.
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Oz Harvest (FEAST) Healthy Kids in the Classroom Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to for the Love of Teaching. I am here with Amelia Berner, who is all OzHarvest’s food education and sustainability training program manager. And the acronym for that is FEAST, which works well. They combine nutrition, food waste, and sustainability in a curriculum ready package for Australian farmers schools.
Bronwyn: So welcome Amelia, how are you?
Amelia: I’m great, Bronwyn. Thank you so much for having me here today. Really excited to talk about OzHarvest and the Feast program with you.
Bronwyn: Yeah, fantastic. So first of all, what is OzHarvest?
How Does OzHarvest Operate?
Amelia: OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organisation. So OzHarvest operates all around Australia and we have 60 yellow vans, which you may have seen on the road, rescuing food from 1,300 organisations. So supermarkets from airlines. And until recently we did collect from a lot of events and restaurants, but that has slowed down and all that food providing that food over 1,300 charities in need across Australia.
So that’s around 20,000 kilograms a week that we collect and that’s the same weight as two blue whales. So it’s a lot of food and that’s just increased during these difficult times.
Bronwyn: Yeah, that’s incredible. That is a lot of saved food. Wow. That’s blows my mind that that much is being discarded, but that you guys are doing such a great job of rescuing and saving it, putting the numbers on it really gives you a new perspective. Doesn’t it?
Amelia: Yeah. And I think the important thing to understand is it’s good quality food. So it’s not that idea of food that is rotting, or would go in the bin because it’s, it can’t be eaten. It’s actually yet really good quality foods that yeah. Should go to people in need. Yeah.
The Four Pillars of OzHarvest
Bronwyn: Fantastic. And so there’s four pillars that you work across to engage the community. So what are the four pillars and how do they kind of work together to help you do what you do?
Amelia: Yeah. So a main pillar is rescue and that’s our core business. And as I said, you’re probably familiar with our 60 yellow vans on the road, collecting food and delivering it to that charities. And then from there it’s engaged. And so we work with community engagement. This is the heartbeat of, OzHarvest and his Christ every day throughout devoted team of likeminded partners, as well as a growing, we call that volunteers a yellow army and we have an amazing supportive volunteer network.
We say that, you know, we can’t do the work we do without our volunteers across Australia. From there, it’s also our community engagement. So we’re out in the community presenting about what we can do to support the community, but what also the community can do to be food fighters, fight food waste.
And next that is innovate. So being, um, a for-impact organisation with constantly innovating and looking for new ways and better ways to prevent food being wasted. So let’s have, this was actually, um, we opened Australia’s first free supermarket.
So yeah, it’s the idea that, um, take what you need, give what you can, and it’s open to anyone to visit our supermarket. And the idea is the supermarket is stocked with food that is good quality food that would otherwise go to waste. And now more than ever during these difficult times, yeah, our supermarket is providing, um, yeah, well a huge gap or addressing that need in our community.
Bronwyn: Whereabouts is that one?
Amelia: That’s in Kensington in Sydney.
And then from there, um, we also have a lot of other innovations that we address, um, such as our food app, which connects our donors to charities in remote and regional areas. And we’ve just started our mobile markets, which are going to drought and bushfire areas.
So yeah, constantly innovating, but, um, yeah, as a food waste is a global issue causing a negative effect on our environment. Um, we know that well, food feels hungry bellies education transforms lives, and it’s the key to influencing change.
So I, myself coming from a teaching background I knew how important it was to educate our little ones in the school environment about, you know, the importance to be food fighters and be change makers in the community.
Bronwyn: Food fighters, how cute! It’s such a great program that you’ve developed for schools. So tell us a little bit, Emily, if you can, about your background as an educator and then how and why Feast was developed.
Amelia: Yeah, for sure. So my background as an educator is I worked for 10 years within the high school education system. So working as they say, a TAS teacher, so it’s food technology and hospitality. So from there, I could say that, you know, a lot of the kids weren’t appreciating the foods that we will bring them in the classroom setting that was just ending up in the bin because they didn’t like it.
Didn’t want to eat it, overcooking too much. And within the schools that I was working in there wasn’t really anything set up to also educate the kids to care for their environment and not waste their food and appreciate and value their food. So I wanted to do a little bit more about that. So I went back and studied and looked into a Master of Public Health, looking at public health interventions with the focus of nutrition.
I guess when I got the job at OzHarvest that they wanted to develop an education program because they saw a gap in the education system. I said, this was the golden ticket.
Bronwyn: Match made in heaven.
Amelia: Yeah. And so from there, it took me six months to develop the program. And, you know, as a teacher, you know, like teachers are so time poor and to be able to have six months to focus on developing one program was like amazing.
Bronwyn: What a dream. Yeah. I know, like you’re doing both you’re teaching during the day and your curriculum planning during at night, and then to be able to put all that creativity and thought and, um, processes into actually designing, units of work or, you know, curriculum resources. It’s just, yeah, it’s a blessing. So that sounds awesome. Six months. So you did it, you just took six months working at OzHarvest, developing FEAST.
Amelia: Yeah. And with a team. So we had a team of, um, curriculum experts. We did focus groups. We have teachers, we had designers on board and it was just, it was fantastic. So from that side of things, as well, liking with universities to review existing programs within schools and initiatives. So yeah, from there FEASTR was developed and yeah.
It was also that idea that there’s nothing in the primary school education system at the moment that focuses on teaching kids about the importance of not wasting their food and valuing all the water, energy, fuel, and labour that goes into preparing their food, um, and what had happened. So that circular system, how to prepare healthy food and not to waste it and to value it.
Yes. And the sustainability is one of the cross curricular priorities from the Australian Curriculum. And so a huge part of this is surrounding sustainability. Isn’t it, like? Yeah. Making sure there’s enough for everyone and enough into the future. So could you go through kind of, what is the FEAST program? How does it operate in schools? What do you guys do now that it’s all up and running after all of that time and research and planning that went into it?
Oz Harvet’s FEAST Program: a Curriculum-Aligned Package for Teachers
Yeah. So from the time research and planning, we found that the best way to deliver the program was that it would be a primary school curriculum aligned education program. So the goal of FEAST is to educate students, be change makers in that community, through educating them about food waste awareness, healthy eating, and the vital part they play in ensuring that all Australians have a sustainable future.
So what we have done is we have developed a package. So for Year Five and Six students, and it’s the, uh, curriculum aligned STEM program that runs from about seven to 10 weeks within a school term, and really everything is there in the package for the teachers to deliver. So we’ve created the lesson plans, the worksheets, the recipes, um, for students to cook in a classroom environment, shopping lists so the teachers can just quickly take off everything they need for a class of 30 students to, you know, a group of five students, assessment, matrixes, risk assessments, and all of it’s there.
So really the teachers can just pick up this program and start delivering it straight away. Um, and there’s also, it’s all online. So there’s the teacher portal and the student portal. So we can reach remote and rural areas. And we have funding to be able to provide the program free of charge to those areas. Um, but also, you know, it kind of taps into that idea that you don’t need to print out all of those teacher resources. If you do have that available, you can use your smart board. You know, if students are lucky enough to have the iPads or tablets they those sorts of things, they can access it through that as well. Wow.
Bronwyn: Yeah, can definitely tell it’s developed by a teacher from all of that stuff like that is going to save people so much time, just even having things like those risk assessments already, um, formed and having like the shopping list like this. So great. So much thought and effort has gone into this.
Amelia: Um, and we know that as teachers, we act in partnership with families to help our students learn. So how does FEAST get families involved in connecting the dots for kids and helping them learn about because it’s because a lot of their food consumption and I guess wastage is happening in the home as well.
Yeah, definitely so as well as providing the curriculum package to teachers to deliver in the school, a huge part of the program is also cooking. So it’s cooking in a classroom environment. So with that idea, um, we engage our community. So parents, caregivers, and the broader community to assist teachers in cooking in the classroom environment.
So the idea is that way provides schools with a kitchen kit. And that kitchen kit is enough equipment for 30 kids to cook in a classroom environment. And with that kitchen kit as well, schools can also have a set of six electric frying pans to do the hot cooking if they choose to pending on how confident the teachers feel. But from there, these recipes are really simple. Cost-effective, they’re all under $2.50 in terms of how much it would be for a meal that really simple recipes for the schools.
But the main thing is we want to get that message across that cooking can take place anywhere. You don’t need a commercial kitchen, it can take place in the classroom environment and engaging the community.
And this is part of school plans, engaging community to come into the school, to assist the parents, the caregivers with that cooking environment is really important.
FEAST in the Home
And the other thing that we look at is creating activities that can occur in the home. So what we don’t understand, well, a lot of people didn’t understand about food waste is the majority of food waste actually occurs in the home. So once the food waste there that’s 2.5 million tons comes from the home in Australia. That’s huge. So what we say within the average family, it’s one in five shopping bags, just pour it in the bin as food waste. That’s usually what happens and that costs the family $4,000 a year. So getting those conversations at home, not wasting food, getting kids to do food audits in the home, which is, you know, fun for parents and kids starting to question food items being thrown away, we get, we get the feedback from teachers that they can identify students who are real change makers in their class who are really taking it on board.
But I think more than ever, students are recognising that they need to take on the challenges posed by climate change and we as educators me to empower our, to take on challenges. So through knowledge and education. Yeah.
Bronwyn: Yeah. That’s amazing. Some of the statistics I’m reading on your website are just incredible about the volume of waste, but also just really sobering things like fact that one in five children in each classroom on average goes to bed or goes to school hungry every day. And, um, by rescuing the food and helping out communities that are struggling or families on a family level that are struggling, um, you guys have minimising that.
So that’s really, really awesome also about nutrition. And we’re super lucky in Australia that, um, we don’t I feel like we don’t have such an obesity issue as places like the US but, um, your research and evidence has shown that one in four children are overweight and obese at Australia and don’t eat enough, um, fresh fruit and veggies, which we know from a teaching perspective, that’s what they need to be energetic and have nutrition and be healthy and happy. So, yeah, really interesting to say that and to bring that into the classroom, there’s a free infographic on the education.OzHarvest.org website with heaps of information, which would be super cool in your classroom as well.
Bronwyn: We’ve also got a blog post on the classroom, which is Teach Starter’s blog which Emma has written about all OzHarvest’s FEAST program, which you can check out as well with links to the website.
How to Get Involved in OzHarvest’s FEAST Program
Um, so if you want your school to participate, and the thing about this is I just had a look at the package that you get where you order the class classroom curriculum package. So for one class you get so much stuff, so many resources and support materials for your class, and it’s a hundred dollars, is that right?
Amelia: So it’s a hundred dollars for the curriculum package. And yeah, I think from that, it’s really important to understand that with everything that we provide schools, and again, we have funding for a lot of schools to undertake this program. It’s just going to our website and registering interest and we can contact you from there, but it’s sustainable.
So the kitchen kits stays with the school, the curriculum package links to that online portal. They stay with the school year after year and our team updates and makes sure that it’s aligned with any curriculum changes .
So it’s not just $100 for one class it’s then belongs to the school and they have access to keep using it.
Yeah, exactly. So I guess it’s that idea as a not for profit organisation, a main aim is to create change. I think the idea is going back to those statistics, you know, with the understanding of food waste, having such a huge impact, it’s the third biggest greenhouse gas in the world after the U S and China, like from that understanding, if we can change children’s behaviours that of young and really educate them about food waste and the need to limit their waste and value their food, then that is so important.
And I think that idea of looking at food as a holistic system. So the idea when you were talking about that healthy eating, getting kids to eat more fruit and veggies, all of the FEAST recipes that we do with the students like the crunchy noodle salad. And, you know, and we do is we start off really simple.
We start off with just fruit skewers, because what we’re finding is a lot of kids, they can’t identify what sit and fruit and vegetables are anymore. A lot of them, when we ask the class, have you used a knife? Have you ever cooked before they haven’t, it’s not part of what they need to do in a primary school environment. So those important life skills, I remember we had one kid at a school say that I asked where bread comes from. Because we have a unit that focuses on where food comes from and he thought it came from a bread tree. And, you know, we get the kids to vote on what their favourite recipe is.
At the end, we provide around 15 recipes throughout package, but teachers pick and choose which ones they would like to do with their class. But what came out as the most voted recipe from the kids was a crunchy noodle salad, which was like chopped up cabbage, grated carrot, capsicum, and mint, and parsley.
And yeah, I think, you know, a lot of us wouldn’t think that kids would want to vote. That has been my favourite recipe to cook when you’ve got, you know, pancakes and French toast and all these other delicious recipes. But there’s something that can be said for cooking together in a classroom environment. Kids learn these life skills that they’re not getting. It’s just, yeah, something that’s really important, but also cooking together, they’re more likely to eat the food that they prepare themselves and feel that sense of ownership.
How OzHarvest’s FEAST Program is Run
And that’s what the FEAST program’s about. We give the kids through problem-based learning and inquiry based, learning a challenge to develop a school family cookbook over the period of that seven to 10 weeks. And we find evidence shows that real behavioural change and learning occurs, ongoing interaction where ideas and skills are revised and repeated.
But also we are able to access kids who are more of that kinaesthetic learner that really hands on. And we see that example in schools where teachers identify kids who have behavioural issues and in the FEAST program, they thrive and they become the classroom leaders because they’re really engaging and involved in what they’re doing.
And then with that idea that the kids develop a school cookbook at the end, after learning about what food waste is, who changemakers in their community. So our CEO and founder, Ronni Kahn, she can’t, it was just an idea. She worked in events management, she’s saw the huge amount of food that was going to waste and wanted to do something about it from that idea. She is a changemaker and that’s what we tell the kids like you can be change makers too. It starts with an idea.
And so with that, we also look at healthy eating. And then through that, they develop their own recipe booklet. And at the end they have a launch. So they are published authors at the end and that educates the community on healthy eating recipes and reducing food waste. And they talk to the community members, the parents and the caregivers that have come in and volunteered the teachers to thank them. And that side of things is so beautiful.
And I think the idea with this program is every school does it differently, is nice to see how they adapt it and use it, to suit their needs.
And it’s great. We’ve seen some schools that do, um, a Master Chef cook off at the end and they get there, Ronnie was there. It was really great the things that many teachers and the parents who volunteering. And it was, it was lovely that, you know, every school does it differently, but it’s really, it’s a beautiful thing. Seeing how excited and how engaged kids get from talking about these topics of sustainability, what they can do to be change makers.
Bronwyn: Amazing. And it sounds like there are so many positive outcomes that are coming through this. You’ve got some really cool wins that you’ve seen throughout, um, the process of developing and then, um, pushing out the FEAST program. So what are some of the coolest things that you’ve seen happen since FEAST went out into schools?
How FEAST Has Grown and Changed
Amelia: Um, I think the uptake, so like firstly, we piloted the program in 2018 with four schools in Sydney , Canterbury, Bankstown region. Um, and it was so successful. We had Sydney University on board that assisted us in the evaluation from there. We had a new South Wales launch with 40 schools on board, and now we’re in over 150 schools nationally. So I think amazing including, Christmas Island, it’s just in all states and territories across Australia.
So I think that there has been a real need for a program like this. Um, and yeah, again, the feedback. So, you know, one school, we had the teacher identify a class of students who really needed these cooking skills. They were the main carers in the home as the parents working long hours. And they will say kids that were identified as needing that extra support and those kids went and led the class for, you know, for the other classes.
And then they went and led it for the other classes. And by the end of the program, there was 300 kids who were doing FEAST and learning about what STEM is just, I think from that side of things, the impact of the uptake has been a really amazing side of things, but also now so many kids understand what food waste is and they consider the impact of food waste on the environment, um, to follow a recipe.
I think, you know, everyone, when they young starts off with having that passion and drive, I grew up in a small surfy town on them getting those guys. And whenever I was out surfing, I was in the kitchen cooking. That was my thing. So knowing now that all of these kids, now they have recipes and they have a passion for cooking is amazing.
Bronwyn: Creating everywhere foodies everywhere. Masterchef 25, 20, 2030 is going to be very competitive I think.
Amelia: I think because it’s exactly, and that’s the idea like there’s not any cooking in school we’re seeing throughout, our evaluation that big cooking at home with the parents. It’s getting those conversations and things happening in the home, which is really great. Yeah.
Bronwyn: Awesome. So great. Okay. So Emilia wearing your teacher hat. Why, why would you, recommend this program for all teachers? just sell it to us? Why do teachers need to do FEAST?
Why Should Teachers use the FEAST Program?
Amelia: Uh, that’s a good question. Okay. So, I guess it’s, firstly, those one thing that I haven’t mentioned in the package of based is that we also provide teacher training. So, we provide online and face to face teacher training. Um, and with that, so it’s all there really like it’s easy to implement, adapt, and we’ve tailored it to state the school’s needs through providing the curriculum package online with everything the teachers need to implement the program. Then we’re provided the kitchen kids. So cooking can take place anywhere and seeing kids and how the eyes light up. And they just love that cooking environment. And that hands-on learning is just amazing and that lifelong skill. And then from there as well, the teacher training. So it’s a, our online training course is three hours and the teachers walk away knowing how to deliver this course through doing that interactive workshops.
Bronwyn: So fantastic. Yeah. And yeah, I think the idea is often one year of delivery, then you’ll come more confident year after year. We just went constantly receiving fantastic feedback from schools about the impact that it’s having on not only the kids, but the broader school community.
So teacher hat on, it’s pretty amazing to be able to have that opportunity to focus and develop over six months a program that can really support teachers. I wish I had this program when I staging, but also other hat on is that to know that, you know, what kids are learning is really making a difference to their future, to be change makers in their community, to not only reduce food waste, but also focus on healthy eating, which is so important.
Like you said, you know, I mean 5% of kids in New South Wales are meeting their vegetable intake, we need to make a change there.
And then the other side is food insecurity. One in five kids are food insecure and you know, they don’t know when they’re going to be getting their next meal. So there’s all of these components that this program can create this impact that is so needed more than ever. Yeah.
Bronwyn: Great to see you guys doing such important work in this space because really good. So what’s on the horizon for FEAST next?
Amelia: Uh, so I guess the idea is we have big ambitions to get FEAST in as many primary schools as possible, um, across Australia. So as I said to go onto the website and register interest and we can get in touch with you with funding opportunities to get face into your school. And as a team we’ll provide ongoing support for schools as well. It’s not just that one sign up with them. We have our team is, as I said, yellow army, they also support in the delivery of the program. Um, and then, you know, the team would love to continue to expand our programs into other areas, um, with different, you know, stages in curriculum outcomes, addressing yeah.
Bronwyn: So exciting, so much room for growth and into, you know, perhaps the secondary system and that kind of thing. So how can teachers who are listening to the podcast, find out more about getting involved. You mentioned the website, go to the website, register interest. Um, and what does that actually mean? What happens next?
Amelia: Yeah. So when the teachers go to the website, which is www.education.ozharvest.org, then there’s, they just register your school and once you’ve registered on there, then we contact you with what funding opportunities are available to support your school in Australia or outside, we’ll say have a great range of based at home resources with parents and caregivers. And we also have some other opportunities to register for an OzHarvest member to come into your school, to present and lots of things on there to really yeah. Think about and investigate into.
Bronwyn: That’s fantastic. Okay. So, um, head to the website, take a look at that. Um, and yeah, definitely parents jump that too, that, um, those resources as well. I know I definitely am going to be looking into that. Um, and the other thing is if you enrol now and register your interest, you don’t have to actually start teaching the unit until, you know, later on, because it has been such a busy year for teachers and they’re kind of probably in catch up mode a little bit now that they’ve got their kids back in their classrooms. But, um, I did read there that you don’t have to start that straight away, so that’s good too Amelia.
Amelia: Yeah, no, of course that’s, um, it’s more about securing your funding and then you can deliver it at a time that suits you. Like I said, it’s always different for every school and especially during these difficult times.
Yeah. It’s um, teachers are amazing during these difficult times, everything that they’ve gone through. Yes. There’s no rush.
Bronwyn: I’m constantly amazed by the things I’m seeing happening in classrooms. Like incredible. And even I’m seeing teachers diversify and leave the classroom like you did yourself and then go on to have big impacts in Australian schools like you are, is just amazing.
So thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. You’re an inspirational teacher and it’s been a lovely time talking to you.
Amelia: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great.