The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust is the newest sponsor of a game changing garden charity initiative, Oke, and together they are committed to building sustainable gardens for primary schools throughout South Auckland. 

Established in 2015, Oke provides tamariki from disadvantaged communities the opportunity to experience the benefits of growing their own fruit and vegetable garden.  

5+ A Day Charitable Trust Chair David Smith says they are excited to be sponsoring Oke, because it is in perfect alignment with the Trust’s mission to support the health and wellbeing of tamariki by encouraging them to eat at least five servings fresh fruit and vegetables every day.

“We want to make a huge impact in the way our tamariki understand, access, learn and interact with produce and we’re committed to getting this message out, one garden at a time,” he says. 

Oke have already built gardens at 16 primary schools, gifting more than 10,000 tamariki across South Auckland from Mangere to Drury, a school garden to grow and learn in. 

Oke Founder, Paul Dickson says the partnership with 5+ A Day will allow the programme to reach even more tamariki.  

“With grant funds in short supply since COVID-19 and growing food insecurity in the communities we work with, the importance of a partnership like this can’t be understated. We’re really looking forward to working together to improve the health and wellbeing of Aotearoa’s most disadvantaged tamariki, one garden at a time. 

“Support from partners such as 5+ A Day ensures we have the funds to both build school gardens and know that the ongoing operation of the charity is secure,” says Dickson. 

In the beginning Dickson saw the gardens as primarily a tool to teach children the origins of their food.

“It quickly changed from being about growing food to being an outdoor classroom, a place for teachers to take their tamariki to learn about science or maths or any other area of the curriculum. 

“Kids with learning difficulties or short attention spans learn much better in a hands-on, natural environment. Unfortunately, most of the schools in these urban areas are more of a concrete jungle, and our gardens have provided a much-needed outdoor education space for teaching and learning,” says Dickson. 

While schools are often sent seeds or have garden beds constructed, Oke goes a step further in establishing a sustainable, achievable garden project in partnership with the school which is built through a community working bee. The charity provides schools with raised beds, a greenhouse, composting solutions, kids’ tools, irrigation and other essential resources; along with the education required to maintain them. 

“These kids are missing a long-term connection to the outdoors. We approach schools that are looking for a forward-thinking resource which will serve their community for many years to come and we partner with organisations such as 5+ A Day to ensure we can fund a viable project,” says Dickson. 

Connecting tamariki to the outdoors is a vital part of their learning and development. Nutrition research conducted overseas indicates that children who learn to grow and cook their own food consume, on average, an extra half serving of vegetables each day and that’s a statistic the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust wants to see replicated here in Aotearoa.* 

The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust already support the successful Fruit and Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative that will provide over 26 million serves of fresh produce to decile one and two schools this year alone.  

“The gardens built by Oke provide students and teachers with a vital, practical tool that we hope will make them lifelong, passionate gardeners with a deep understanding of the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables,” says Smith. 

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