Driven by a passion to reduce food waste, Perth school teacher Brooke Baker has been working for the past six years to achieve her personal goal of living a zero waste life.
When she came across OzHarvest’s FEAST program during an internet search for Year 5 technology learning materials, she could not believe her luck.
report by Michele Ferguson
FEAST (Food Education and Sustainability Training) is a curriculum-aligned STEM learning program designed by OzHarvest for Year 5 and 6 students. Through cooking in the classroom, creating recipes and designing a cookbook, the students develop a range of STEM capabilities.
“So much about the FEAST program appealed to me,” said Brooke. Initially attracted to its emphasis on food waste prevention, sustainability and healthy eating, she was later drawn to its focus on cooking from scratch rather than relying on convenience foods.
Classroom cooking is used to promote cooking as a science and an essential life skill that crosses cultures and societal boundaries.
“As I learned more about FEAST, the extensive resources and support it offered together with its clear curriculum links appealed to me,” she said. FEAST encourages teachers to “own the program” by adapting lessons to suit their particular student cohort and school environment.
Brooke implemented FEAST at her school, Piara Waters Primary, in 2020. Located in south east Perth, the school aims to provide a contemporary and inclusive learning environment where different cultures are celebrated and students are empowered to learn, grow and thrive.
With the school’s support, she took on FEAST as a passion project, undertaking the bulk of the workload. Although she felt challenged by the scale of the resources, she said she received invaluable support from the FEAST team and a local OzHarvest volunteer who assisted in the classroom.
Brook adapted the lessons for the Piara Waters context and provided the rest of the teaching team with the online resources after she had completed them.
“I purchased a range of items, mostly from op shops, to support the implementation of the program. Lemon juicers, small bowls, serving platters and such. I purchased the ingredients from local stores to keep costs and food packaging down,” she explained. Brooke described the cost of implementing FEAST as “outstanding value.”
“I felt it represented great value in terms of the curriculum-linked learning, student engagement and parent/community involvement,” she said. FEAST keeps costs to a minimum by offering resources and cooking equipment through an online platform, as well as online or face-to-face professional learning for teachers. Free resources are offered to eligible schools so all schools, including those under-represented in STEM learning, can access the program.
Last year 81 students from three Year 5 classes at Piara Waters took part in the 10-week unit of work. This year 101 students are participating.
“Our students were thrilled with the entire experience,” said Brooke. “They were enthusiastic about working with and trying new foods. They loved the social act of sharing the food they had prepared and enjoyed reflecting on the recipes. They also enjoyed reporting back to me and their peers about the recipes they had replicated at home.”
She identified the key messages as preventing food waste, the ease and importance of preparing fresh, healthy food and the low cost involved.
“The students began to actively seek ways to avoid food waste and became change agents, driving change in their homes and the playground.”
The creation of the final version of the School Cookbook was a great moment. Designed by the students, it featured their recipes, words and photos. With 50 family members invited to the cookbook launch, the children were excited to prepare samples of their food to offer. At the launch the students and proud guests sat in the sunshine enjoying the food, looking through the cookbook and talking about the experience. For Brooke, it was a career highlight.
“It was an outstanding example of community engagement,” she said.
“It has been a fantastic journey for us all. My vision is that FEAST becomes an annual program for our school’s Year 5 cohort.”
“I would absolutely recommend other schools sign up to FEAST,” Brooke said. “It is so well-planned and the learning accessed by our students was amazing to see. The program makes such clear links between practical cooking lessons and curriculum in such an engaging way that I believe the work is well worth it.”
You can download the Piara Waters Primary School Cookbook on the FEAST School Cookbook Page or click on the below image.