Healthy Families Far North are getting new students excited about kai (food), as they embark on their first year at Queensland Resort College (QRC) in Te Tai Tokerau this month.

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When it comes to kai, the tourism and hospitality business management college are leading the way amongst tertiary institutes, after implementing a student-led kai policy alongside Healthy Families Far  North in 2020.

Systems Innovator Paul Condron and Nutritionist Sophie McCarthy delivered a nutrition-based workshop asking students to draw their favorite meals and asked why. 

Condron said getting an understanding of how the students perceive kai and how it impacts their well-being is the first step to making real change.

“We want people to really think about what they’re eating, why… and to take a step back and look at how that might be impacting their hauora (well-being),” he said.

“When we look at our taha tinana (physical health), taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whānau (family health) and taha hinegaro (mental health), it all connects and so we just want to get them thinking about how kai might play a role in that as they start their new journey with QRC Te Tai Tokerau.

While students had come from different parts of the country, the activity presented a unique connection they shared collectively, he added.

“We observed that there were a lot of memories with whānau, emotions and traditional foods… there wasn’t necessarily a lot of takeaways, but it was all of those things which really struck home for me.”

“When they start to notice that there’s this unique connection, the interrelationships associated with that builds some excitement and social responsibility around the food choices they make and what kai they want to be eating while they’re on campus.”

QRC Te Tai Tokerau General Manager Nick Madden said since implementing the healthy kai policy, they’ve noticed a shift in how students perform in and out of the classroom.

“Students are more alert in class, they have more energy and tend to be in much better moods,” he said.

“It keeps QRC in check to uphold our healthy kai policy as well, because we don’t want students crashing if they aren’t eating the right foods.”

He said it was important for QRC to get students involved and to learn about healthy kai so they could lead the way in looking after their health and well-being at college and at home.

“We know this has a knock-on effect where the students will bring this knowledge back to their families, so it’s great that Healthy Families Far North can offer support with that.”

Over 30 students will have the opportunity to modify the healthy kai policy based on their individual and collective findings, alongside staff and Healthy Families Far North innovators.

Paul Condron said he’d like to think five or six of those students would want to be part of the co-design team moving forward.

“We’ve given them some insight into how they can take the lead on this, and we might not get all 30 students, but we’ve got them thinking about it, we’ve got them talking about it and they can use it in everyday life,” he said.

“The process they go through in co-design is so empowering and we’re looking forward to seeing them evaluate their insights and making healthier food choices suited for them.”