Award-winning CPG Hotels Group Executive Chef Jinu Abraham.

Two of New Zealand’s most respected hospitality representatives are getting behind an initiative aimed at teaching primary school children and their families about the long-term benefits of healthy eating.

Award-winning CPG Hotels Group Executive Chef Jinu Abraham and NZMA hospitality and culinary training school are donating their time, students and facilities to create a healthy meal for the opening of New Zealand’s first nutrition classroom at Glen Taylor Primary School in Glen Innes on May 24.

Dr Sharad Paul has donated the classroom as part of his work in low decile schools where he aims to improve literacy and nutrition by giving his time to teaching outside of normal class time.

Dr Paul, whose medical work is in skin cancer as doctor and academic, has been running literacy programmes in low-decile schools for over a decade, and has now decided to incorporate health education as “one cannot have poor health and achieve good learning outcomes”.  In 2012, Dr Paul was a finalist for New Zealander of the Year and was awarded NZ Medical Association’s highest award, The Chair’s Award.

While researching for his latest book, The Genetics of Health – Understanding Your Genes for Better Health, Dr Paul uncovered links between the influences of different cultures, eating habits and physical activities on human genes, including poor learning and mood from making poor dietary choices. That was the brainchild behind this project that aims to help people, especially school children, make healthy choices.

Chef Abraham, whose latest venture has been the opening of Cooke’s restaurant in Hotel Grand    Windsor, an MGallery by Sofitel which follows his direction of produce-driven, wholefoods and organic options, will be preparing a healthy meal for 130 invited guests and members of the school community at the opening.

He says: “This is such a great initiative teaching kids to make good food choices. I believe that the right food choices and healthy preparation help towards good nutrition, especially for the little ones. It is such a good thing to support wellness at grassroots level.”

Providing the kitchens and equipment to achieve this is NZMA, one of this country’s top ranking hospitality and culinary training schools.

Many of its students, some from backgrounds similar to pupils of Glen Taylor School, have won awards at national culinary competitions and gone on to very successful careers in hospitality.

Several of NZMA’s current student t roll will be supporting Chef Abraham in preparing the meal.  NZMA front of house students will be serving it.

NZMA Head of Faculty, Caroline Jeyachandran says our mission statement has always been “making meaningful difference in the lives of people and their communities” . That’s the reason we are keen to nurture these little minds and bodies.

NZMA and Chef Abraham both strongly believe in the importance of good nutrition as a key to improving future opportunities. By starting the education process at primary school level there is potential to actually make a difference to whole communities as the children pass on their knowledge to their parents and extended families.

Chef Abraham’s menu for the opening will bring together recognised cultural foods befitting the Maori and Pacific roll of the school, while subtly demonstrating that good nutrition can be achieved even on a tight budget.

Dr Paul says the support of Chef Abraham and NZMA has been extremely encouraging. It has strengthened his belief that making a difference in less fortunate communities is possible.

“In Auckland alone there are nearly a hundred low-decile schools. That is frightening. For many of these ‘brown and poor’ kids it isn’t real to be a doctor or lawyer. I am hoping just to inspire one child to go onto greatness … then my work will be done.”

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