Evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program
An independent national evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program, conducted by the Centre for Health Service Development (CHSD) and involving collaboration between members of the University of Wollongong’s Faculties of Health and Behavioural Sciences and Education, commenced in July 2011. The evaluation was commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).
With 178 primary schools across Australia participating at various stages of implementation, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program teaches students from grades 3 to 6 how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal food. The Program aims to encourage and reinforce healthy, lifelong eating habits.
Four years since the beginning of the Program’s rollout into schools, the evaluation team aimed to assess a variety of factors including changes to food preferences, lifestyle, behaviour, and gardening and cooking skills, to determine its positive reach. Broader implications for students’ academic performance in reference to Key Learning Areas were also considered, as were impacts on improving social inclusion and on understanding of effective health promotion practice in schools.
The objectives of the evaluation, and the methodologies to be applied, were outlined in a Project Plan developed at the commencement of the project, and subsequently approved by an Evaluation Reference Group (consisting of members of the evaluation team as well as external members). A national workshop was organised and held during September 2011. It was attended by 34 participants, including representatives of participating schools, DoHA, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, and the evaluation team. The national workshop, and a series of web-based conferences held for those that could not attend the national workshop, represented the commencement of the evaluation.
The next step of the evaluation involved visits to 28 schools across Australia, which occurred in late 2011. Interviews were conducted with key school staff involved in the Program during these visits, and a number of other key evaluation data collection activities took place, namely the administration of student surveys, parent surveys and student food diaries.
During this period, additional data were collected and analysed, including schools’ mandatory three and nine month reports to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. Also, relevant school level data on the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s My School website were analysed, specifically the results from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and attendance rates.
The interim report was submitted early January 2012. This was followed by a number of final evaluation data collection activities. Teacher and volunteer surveys were administered, a literature review written, and stakeholder interviews conducted with principals of demonstrations schools, key personnel within both the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and DoHA, as well as representatives of state and territory health and education departments. Additionally, an investment form was developed and completed by principals, which provided important costing information for the economic analysis component of the evaluation. The final report was submitted mid 2012.
The evaluation team was led by Professor Heather Yeatman (Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences), together with Senior Research Fellow Karen Quinsey (CHSD). Evaluation team members include Dr Deanne Condon-Paoloni (Health Sciences), Dr Wendy Nielsen (Education), Professor Simon Eckermann (Health Economics) and other participating CHSD personnel. The advantages of cross disciplinary research – in this case the combination of public health, nutrition and education expertise, with the range of disciplines of the CHSD staff – are evident in this evaluation.
For further information about this evaluation please contact the Centre for Health Service Development on (02) 4221 4411.