Getting Potatoes back into the classroom

Share this:

Sarah Wirth, President of HETTANZ discussed ‘Getting potatoes back in the classroom’ at the recent Potatoes NZ conference. The following is Sarah’s report…

What I learnt from our HETTANZ members is that potatoes have never really left the classroom. Potatoes are a perfect fit with the two New Zealand curriculums areas of Home Economics and Technology. Potatoes are the perfect combination with the school curriculum, for their nutritional benefits, their low cost and their short cooking time.

Potatoes provide a wealth of healthy nutrients as well as high-quality fuel to power the body. Potatoes count as one serving towards the 5-a-day total. They are also a perfect base for recipe development projects.


Leaving potato skins on provides a good source of fibre.

Virtually fat-free
Add toppings with low or no fat to keep them this way.

Carbohydrates for sustained energy
The big advantage of getting carbohydrates from potatoes rather than pasta, rice or bread, is that potatoes also contain many other vital nutrients.

Antioxidants for protection
Potatoes contain vitamin C and phenolic compounds, strong antioxidants which offer protection against some diseases.

Rich in minerals
Potatoes contain a balanced source of minerals for a healthy diet, particularly potassium.

Bursting with vitamin C
A medium sized potato can supply nearly half the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

Valuable for B group vitamins
Potatoes contain vitamin B6, thiamin and niacin.

A recent survey of New Zealand teachers by Massey University Dietetic research students looked at how developing life skills to prepare healthy meals will empower our children to be able to access and enjoy a nutritious diet within their own budgetary, cultural, social and time constraints over a lifetime.

The school curriculum is the most appropriate place to teach and develop cooking literacy skills as it reaches all children and provides cross curricular learning.”  Potatoes with other New Zealand fruits and vegetables can be the hero.

I put a call out on the HETTANZ google group to members who use potatoes in their programmes. I would like thank Nicola Potts, Ali McGregor, Sarah Ryan and Jane Hazelton.

In 2013, Nicola Potts Food, Nutrition and Hospitality Teacher St Patrick’s College Silverstream Upper Hutt was supported and sponsored by Potatoes NZ in a unit she taught to the 1st 15 Rugby team. She was required to provide photo evidence of the dishes and all the potatoes were provided by Potatoes NZ. Nicola explained that one of the boys in the photos is an up and coming All Black now! “Potatoes are a great first 15 food and I will be doing the unit again as Stream looks like they could be the Wellington winners this year!”

The first 15 captain wrote at the time.

The St Pats Silverstream 1st xv had a stellar year of rugby but sadly slipped up in the Wellington final.  With the nutritional advice from Nicola Potts, (The school’s food and nutrition teacher) the team understood that simply turning up and expecting to perform would not happen without the proper preparation and eating habits. With the Help from the team were able to get the required calories for the game more simply from the forms of potatoes. 

Joe Apikitoa, Prop of the Silverstream 1st xv said “ Not only did the potatoes help us with performing better, they also taste great!” The manager of the 1st xv this year David Cournane said that “The potatoes provided us with great fuel for the games” while coach Rob Ackerman said “The potatoes were a valuable part of the teams preparation to the games, they provided the boys with the fuel they needed to perform at their best!” With the help of Mrs. Potts, the team were able to learn many different ways to cook the potatoes, which increased our knowledge on cooking. 

On behalf of the Silverstream 1st xv I would like to thank the people at for providing the potatoes for the team. I can honestly say they were of great benefit and helped us immensely. May our relationship with your product carry on. 

Silverstream Captain

Jack McCormack

Yes, it is important for students to make healthy food choices, this should be happening both at schools and in the home. Children should arrive at school with a basic understanding of vegetables and fruit and how to make good choices. However, this is not always happening. Family life is busy and generations of students have not been taught to cook in the home. The impact at this time is displayed in ever increasing health complaints and obesity levels greater than they have ever been.

Another aspect to this is the development of critical thinking skills around marketing and advertising issues; as well as accessibility to a range of food options in different communities. Factors wider than student’s own preferences and family choices are influential in shaping food choices. So if students are going home with a range of recipes and the knowledge to cook, they are more likely to be taken home to be replicated for a family dinner.

The basics of cooking and nutrition are very important.  If you can cook a meal and you are then able to make sure no extras like too much salt, sugar, trans fats or shelf life enhancements are not added to your foods. However, it is also important that students are able to be health literate in relation to food – to be able to read food labels, interpret and alter recipes, be critical of the mixed messages they are receiving, and take action in their own lives and communities to promote lifelong well-being in relation to food and nutrition.

Another of our members Ali McGregor from Christchurch Adventist provided me with her YEAR 7 / 8 FOOD TECHNOLOGY unit PEPPING UP POTATOES. The unit covers aspects from both the home economics and food technology curriculum. Focussing on the food nutritional information, budget and cultural importance to New Zealanders, the students brain storm ways to cook potatoes and then are provide with a recipe which will be a starting point before creating their own potato recipes.  The student is then able to reflect on their choices and their favourite way to eat potatoes.

Sarah Ryan from Waiopehu college in Levin wrote to me. “We had a 50kg donation of potatoes from a local man. I actually haven’t got photos but it was part of an assessment for AS 3.1. My Year 13s were trying to increase the consumption of fruit and veg in NZ society.  This kind man is happy to continue with this kind of donation on a regular basis.  So, because of this, all practical’s have focused around potatoes.  We started with the Potato and Lemon cake from the HETTANZ Conference. Then it’s been baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, potato and leek soup.”

Jane Hazelton from our department at Samuel Marsden Collegiate contributed a couple of recipes using the microwave – which lots of schools have access to.

At our HETTANZ conference in May our Keynote speaker was Professor Boyd Swinburn. He is a wonderful speaker. One of his conclusions was that Obesity was a Global epidemic: early signs of reversal in young children which was showing in only some part of society. This highlighted the importance of school environments for learning.  

I took over the role of HETTANZ National President two years ago.  When working with the HETTANZ executive team we had some clear goals to support our members. We took revisited our sponsorship format. This work was started by Scott Richardson who unfortunately passed away last week. We looked at who we could work with and how they would reflect our values and principles while meeting the needs of teachers and ultimately New Zealand students. Potatoes New Zealand is a perfect fit. They have funded our members, supported our national professional development day and have provide potatoes and valuable educational resources for the classroom. Steve Sheppard is an amazing source of energy and information and we value the partnership greatly.

Together with sponsorship from Potatoes New Zealand we at HETTANZ the Home Economic & Technology Teachers of New Zealand are able to support our members.