DIET – Kiwi chef’s commitment to changing child obesity

Chef Van de Elzen wants to make sure Kiwi kids know what’s in their food.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Disturbingly, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, 41 percent of children under the age of eight don’t know where eggs come from, let alone how to cook one. New Zealand’s much-loved celebrity chef Michael Van de Elzen is on a new mission to help tackle Kiwi kids soaring obesity rates with a common-sense approach.

Van de Elzen wants to make sure Kiwi kids know what’s in their food and most importantly how to cook with the release of his latest cookbook written specifically for children, The Good From Scratch Kids Cookbook.

He is also touring New Zealand targeting schools and other community groups linked with children to teach them how to cook.

“What I’ve found after working with groups all over New Zealand is that often it starts with the next generation. In most cases if you teach the children, they go home and teach their parents,” Van de Elzen says.

“Obesity causes diabetes and lots of health issues too such as additional pressure on the heart, liver and kidney but also behavioural issues such as concentration and sleep which then impacts on learning which is a disaster for our children. It’s not about reinventing the wheel but changing up some kiwi favourites like fish and chips and pies, and adding a healthy, easy-to-cook twist to them.”

The father of two has been spurred into action over his growing concerns about child obesity in Aotearoa with new research cementing that there is an ever-growing problem. The University of Auckland released research in July 2018 that New Zealand’s high obesity rates will only get worse due to unhealthy food environments – particularly in schools. The Ministry of Health puts the current child obesity rate as one in eight children between the age of 2-14 years.

“After having our two girls, Hazel and Ivy, the reports around child obesity in New Zealand has become increasingly worrying to me. I’m a chef, I want to educate and upskill our Kiwi kids and I feel hugely motivated to make a difference.

“Plus, having grown up on a chicken farm, you can be guaranteed by the end of my nationwide tour, at least our Kiwi kids will know what came first – the chicken or the egg!”

Van de Elzen is partnering with ecostore, New Zealand’s leading environmental and sustainable brand. His cooking demonstrations in schools and community groups will open children’s eyes to how fun cooking can be, while speaking about the importance of healthy food and healthy kitchen hygiene habits.

Excitingly, and one of the appeals for ecostore, is that Van de Elzen’s tour is designed in a way that will help schools and community groups raise money.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for these hard-working committees, often parents, to raise money, while educating children at the same time.”

Schools and community groups can apply to have a ‘Good From Scratch’ event in their area, and if successful, will receive an event pack to assist them with the set-up and marketing of the event, right down to the templates of fliers, tickets and a press release. The group will receive 100% of the ticket sales.

Van de Elzen will be releasing his fifth cookbook on October 5 with the tour beginning on October 15 until early December.

For dates when chef Michael Van de Elzen will be in your area and to apply for an event at your school or community group visit vandeelzen.com/good-scratch-book-tour.