A new story book for young children that showcases kai hauora (healthy food) and traditional Māori knowledge is being launched by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust to help celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori this September.

Te Taonga nei te Kūmara (The Gift of Kūmara) will be made available to all Kōhanga Reo in response to the regular requests the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust receives for nutrition resources in Te Reo. The story also includes an English interpretation so the book can be used in mainstream early childhood centres as well.

“Research shows that when tamariki are involved and aware of how to grow produce they are more likely to eat it,” explains 5+ A Day Project Manager Carmel Ireland.

“Our goal is to increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables for health and to provide appropriate resources to encourage this. We partnered with Māori public health organisation Hāpai te Hauora to ensure this beautiful resource reflects a Māori world perspective”.

The kūmara plant was chosen as the theme for the book because the traditional Māori crop was an ideal way to teach tamariki about using the seasons to guide planting and harvesting.

Hāpai te Hauora’s General Manager Māori Public Health Leadership, Jessikha Leatham-Vlasic, says they wanted the book to reflect not only the importance of eating fruit and vegetables but also the importance of understanding Māori environmental knowledge when it comes to growing crops.”

“It is crucial that our tamariki learn about nutrition from a te ao Māori perspective as it incorporates not only physical health but social, spiritual, cultural and mental health. Our language maintains our connections between our food and the deities associated to them – it ensures we know the whakapapa of what we are eating. This is crucial for wellbeing,” she explains.

5+ A Day and Hāpai te Hauora hope this new resource will be used by educators to share some traditional kai practices with tamariki at story time.

“Not only is it so important to educate and encourage our tamariki to eat more fruit and vegetables, but it’s imperative they are supported with knowledge and information that is relatable and applicable to them and their whānau – particularly around health, wellbeing and nutrition,” Leatham-Vlasic says.

“We know that the more we incorporate holistic health messaging, and the more support we provide for whānau to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, the more it is normalised.”

To receive a free copy of Te Taonga nei to Kūmara and other Te Reo resources, Kaiako and educators are invited to order online at www.5adayeducation.org.nz.