GIVE her a shovel, some gumboots and a watering can and Leonie Shanahan knows just how to get kids to eat their fruit and veges.
With two children of her own, Leonie understands parents have difficulties convincing their children to eat good, nutritious food.
And that's why she has written her first book, Eat Your Garden.
The “how-to” book, which has taken her two years to write, has been a labour of love for Leonie and is the result of years of questions and answers from children, parents and teachers, as well as other gardening professionals.
The horticultural expert said the book idea had sprouted from her experience of working with 16 schools in her Sunshine Coast-based Edible School Garden program.
In the program, Leonie instructs students and teachers how to grow fruit and vegetable gardens, and eat the results.
She said the program had really taken off over the past 12 months, although the seeds were first sewn in 2001.
With her passion for gardening, Leonie said she believed an urgent need existed to spread the knowledge she had to improve kids' health.
Although the book has grown from her experience of gardening with children, Leonie said Eat Your Garden was not simply targeted at the younger market.
“It all applies to anybody at any age,” she said.
“Hopefully, (the book) motivates them to get out and start growing their own food.”
Leonie said she never imagined herself ever writing a book and that the experience had been both stressful and rewarding.
The Eat Your Garden launch will be held on September 16 at the Blue Angel Restaurant in Noosa. Leonie said she hoped the event would be the catalyst to encourage guests to start growing their own food.
Blue Angel head chef Daniel Mosedale had prepared an exciting menu for the launch and had been supporting the Edible School Garden program for years, she said.
“I knew he would do something special for the launch,” she said.
“Hopefully, (the launch) inspires people on how to use and cook with local food.”
Leonie said that from her experience, the best way to encourage children to eat their fruit and vege was to have them involved in growing them.
“If they grow it, they are going to want to eat it,” Leonie said.
“They've just got to be exposed to it more.”
As a result of the Edible School Garden program, Leonie said students had adopted a healthier lifestyle by changing their food choices.
She said they were asking parents to buy healthier food, or growing their own in a vege garden in the backyard.
“It has definitely had an influence on the choices of food they have at home,” she said.
Even fussy eaters have taken a liking to the fruit and veggies they have grown at school.
“Sometimes they might take a while, but that's OK,” Leonie said.
She said television's MasterChef also had had a good influence on the children.
Leonie said the students were excited to start cooking with the produce they had grown.
Leonie said the students were more than proud to have been involved in the school gardens and see their food grow full-circle.
“It's an absolute sense of achievement for them,” she said.
Blue Angel will be putting on a delicious two-course spread with a menu showcasing a variety of ways to use and eat fresh produce from your garden, plus a glass of champagne for $50 per person.
To make a booking for the launch call Blue Angel Restaurant on 5473 0800.
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