Tamariki at BestStart Mahora early childhood center are getting a hands-on education in healthy eating and growing their very own kai. Photo / Supplied
Over the past two decades, the Heart Foundation has been committed to improving nutrition and increasing the physical activity of tamariki nationwide.
And for more than seven years, Te Whare Aroha O Nga Mokopuna Early Childhood Center in Flaxmere has been working with the foundation to implement the Tohu Manawa Ora Healthy Heart Award program.
With the support of a nutrition adviser providing guidelines, advice, menus and resources, the center has been dedicated to creating a heart-healthy environment in its early learning service.
Te Whare Aroha O Nga Mokopuna staff member Sharryn Greaney has been helping implement Tohu Manawa Ora in early learning centers across Hawke’s Bay.
“A highlight was working on a menu to provide healthy kai to tamariki while still keeping to a tight budget as tamariki need their tummy tanks and love tanks full to learn,” Greaney said.
The Flaxmere early childhood center is not the only one seeing results.
Mahora’s BestStart center also participates in the Tohu Manawa Ora program.
BestStart Mahora manager Dee MacKay explained that all staff have been a part of the journey and are learning and gaining knowledge that can be included in their everyday practice.
“This has also been a huge positive for us,” she said.
“We absolutely love harvesting our own fruit and veg from our gardens,” MacKay said.
“The tamariki also enjoy their yoga sessions and getting active as much as possible.”
While the childcare centers run their own health heart activities, the Heart Foundation supports and monitors the early learning services’ progress.
It monitors the centers, participating through a new state-of-the-art online portal whereby the nutrition adviser can communicate regularly with the service about their practices.
MacKay from BestStart said the center’s nutrition adviser has been “very helpful in supporting us with the award, and the new website has a checklist covering all of the things you need to do to complete it, which is great”.
Last year the Heart Foundation worked with more than 600 early learning services, achieving nearly 200 awards and reaching almost 40,000 tamariki.
A Heart Foundation spokesperson said children could also positively influence their whānau on improved eating patterns and a healthy lifestyle.
Te Whare Aroha O Nga Mokopuna early childhood center staff members said they would recommend that other early learning services join the Tohu Manawa Ora program.
Any early learning service in New Zealand for under-5s can register for this free service funded by the Ministry of Health.