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Top chef spearheads Tokoroa healthy eating project

An example of the school lunchboxes.

An example of the school lunchboxes.

Three Tokoroa schools are part of a healthy eating project inspired by a woman who has cooked at some of London’s top eateries and who has tutored a new generation of Waikato’s top chefs.

Sarah Turpitt is now Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui hospitals’ food and environmental services manager and is pioneering a school lunch pilot at Amisfield, Tokoroa North and David Henry schools.

The dietary team at Tokoroa Hospital prepare the lunches and deliver them to the schools in time for lunch.

“We provide the option to purchase a lunchbox containing a range of healthy lunch items including a salad and chicken wrap, a ham and egg wholemeal roll, a slice of wholemeal banana bread, vegetable sticks with hummus to dip and some fresh fruit.

“The children can also purchase a larger chicken salad wrap.”

“Parents have embraced the service”, says Turpitt, who before joining Waikato DHB was a lecturer at Wintec and a Waikato Times columnist. Before that she was chef and cookery teacher at Vanilla Café in Hamilton and worked for both restaurants and catering companies in London.

Sarah Turpitt

Sarah Turpitt

“I’ve always been passionate about food, particularly healthy food, and this project sits within our remit to improve the health of our community,” she said.

The inspiration came from Waikato DHB’s Project Energize programme delivered by Sport Waikato “Energizers” in Waikato primary and intermediate schools.

Turpitt was approached by the Amisfield School principal to pilot the food project.

“We see it as a step towards making healthy food available to the community and investing in the long term health of the participants.

“The lunches are substantial and nutritious, providing the energy the students require to engage in the classroom as well as being a convenient and affordable way for parents to ensure that their children have a nourishing meal to see them through the school day. They are low in processed sugars, fats and high in fibre providing optimum nutrition for the participants.”

Turpitt says once she has established a sustainable system and allocated resources to ensure the Tokoroa Hospital café can meet demand and cover costs, she will make the service available to schools throughout the town and in winter include a hot meal option and soup.

Newly designed Tokoroa cafe.

Newly designed Tokoroa cafe.

The lunches are user funded and priced to cover the cost of the lunches.

Turpitt is keen for some community support so they can pool resources and ensure a sustainable and affordable service.

“There are already many amazing people working in various projects around the town to try and improve the health and general well-being of the community.

Turpitt’s inspiration comes from an extraordinary community garden, a soup kitchen and Sport Waikato.

“We have motivated teachers and an incredibly dedicated group of Red Cross volunteers as well as a lot of concerned parents who want to attack the childhood obesity problem at its very root.

“We have an opportunity to create an accessible, nutritious option that the students seem ready to embrace. The Energizers have done a superb job of educating the kids as to what they should be eating; now we have an opportunity to make it accessible for them and their families,” she said

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