A FEAST journey in rural NSW

OzHarvest had the pleasure to interview Allison Rourke, a change-making teacher at Finley Public School, a small primary school of 167 students in Finley, NSW.

Allison started the FEAST program in July 2021, teaching one composite class of Year 5 and 6 students. Despite COVID restrictions, she engaged her students by implementing the FEAST online learning resources throughout lockdown and she is hoping to inspire her students again next year.

How did you hear about the FEAST Program?

The school applied for a grant through the Live Life Well @ School initiative. We were very pleased to receive everything we needed to deliver FEAST at home and at school including the FEAST online lessons, kitchen kit and electric frying pan set.

Without this, we never thought we would have the opportunity to be on this lovely journey learning about food waste, healthy eating and cooking delicious meals.

A FEAST journey in rural NSW

How was your experience of teaching FEAST?

Initially, I was nervous because I’m not a cook myself and I don’t enjoy cooking! I was lucky to have a teacher’s aide in the classroom who was very enthusiastic, so I thought I would give it a go. At first, we were not sure how students would respond to the idea of cooking, so we let them choose and rank their top recipes.

We started with the sandwich sushi. It was a lot of fun. One boy said, “I don’t eat carrots. I don’t eat cheese”. I said, “That’s fine. How about we just give it a little bit of a taste and see how you go”. Another student said, “I don’t eat mayonnaise”. But the end result was extremely positive and everyone was keen to try it at home with different ingredients.

How did you manage FEAST throughout the lockdown with remote learning?

We went into lockdown in week 7 of the school term for 3 weeks. I still had the recipes the class had chosen so I would upload a new recipe every Monday onto Google Classroom and the kids would have a go at home, which got a great response!

Because we live rurally and not all ingredients are available in supermarkets, there were great discussions about substitutions and new creations by adding things in and taking things out. Despite the lockdowns, I am pleased we were able to continue the journey. The children that you think would not be interested at all were the ones who were the most engaged.

Did the border closure bring new challenges for you?

Yes, we had some issues accessing ingredients because of border closure as the nearest Woolworth shop is in Victoria, about 30 min drive from our school. Then, they introduced the border bubble but that’s when Covid cases started popping up. So that was another challenge. Luckily, with the help of the Woolworth team, we managed to go to our local IGA who were accepting our Woolworth vouchers.

Will you be able to complete the program before the end of the school year?

Returning to school under level three COVID restrictions, meant group work was not allowed. So, we focused on the theory side of the FEAST program, looking at where the foods came from and how to avoid waste. As lots of our family have dairy or wheat farms, students know that milk doesn’t come from the supermarket and it was very interesting to broaden their knowledge on other types of food. We also had one family that was getting a new beehive, so there were great discussions about bees and honey! And then we looked at how to avoid food waste and worked on different things we can do with our overripe bananas. Once level 3 restrictions are lifted, we will definitely get back into cooking.

What do you think students enjoyed most?

Students enjoyed cooking, taking turns, sharing and also enjoyed eating something they made themselves. Their favorite recipes were the French toast and the banana pikelets.

French Toast

Do you have any advice for other teachers thinking about starting the FEAST program?

Don’t hesitate to start! I was feeling a bit apprehensive about it at the beginning, but FEAST is set out beautifully and the instructions are very clear. I learned a lot along the way, and I would love to continue next year with the rest of the year 5 and 6 and also the year 3 and 4.

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