ECE Services

Ako Langimalie Preschool recently completed their Rito Healthy Heart Award


Children at Ako Langimalie Preschool harvest vegetables from the garden


Ako Langimalie Preschool,based in Manurewa, Auckland, recently completed their Rito Healthy Heart Award, which is a huge leap forward in providing a healthy environment for their children, and it begins their journey towards a heart healthy centre.
The teachers knew that for this change to be effective within the children and their whānau they would need to role model healthy living and eating in their centre.
They now eat together with the children, they’ve cut down sugar in baking, and they use fresh vegetables from the garden when cooking meals.
They’ve even started morning Zumba sessions with the children in teams to encourage physical activity in their centre and they’re seeing positive results. The children are learning better and the staff are feeling much lighter and happier – some teams have lost around 6 to 13 kgs. This fits in well with the centre philosophy of being ‘healthy in body, mind and spirit’.
The word ‘Langimalie’ literally refers to a bright, clear sky and the term is used metaphorically to speak about the bright, open, happy face of a person. Such a face is thought to express the whole conduct of a person when the heart and soul are contented with a healthy body and mind, since the person has fulfilled their desired responsibilities and relationship.
Heart Foundation Nutrition Advisor Tina Buch spoke to Ako Langimalie Supervisor Jennifer Lavemai about their Healthy Heart Award journey and found out more about all the wonderful initiatives the centre put in place.

Q. Why did you take part in the Healthy Heart Award?

A. Our centre supervisor had previous experience from her earlier centre where they had achieved a Whānau Healthy Heart Award. When she first started at Ako Langimalie the children’s lunch boxes were a concern. She was confident that by joining the Healthy Heart Award there would be some positive changes.

Q. What have you learnt along the journey?

A. In a Pasifika ECE, we’re all about food and parents could get away with so much giving into their children’s preferences. We saw the Healthy Heart Award as an opportunity that would bring great change to our environment. Nothing is impossible when the team put their heart into it!
During our journey, we learnt many different ways to promote healthy eating. This was weaved through our daily curriculum programme which involved:

  • fun fitness activities outdoors (sport, Zumba)
  • sharing healthy recipes from home to school/school to home
  • planting a new vegetable garden in our backyard
  • PTA meetings – we share about healthy living (food/exercise) and hand out pamphlets
  • display posters at the whānau board ‘healthy lunch box’
  • books, puzzles, art, games, transition to school programme
  • community participation – we had a visit from a Tongan health society nurse to talk about how to keep our body healthy.

Q. How have you implemented your changes?

A. The centre supervisor had a great experience before in her previous centre and she had seen the positive impact on children and whānau, so she shared this with the rest of the team.

Our team weren’t aware of the Hearty Heart Award and weren’t too keen at first but went along with the idea. We then went through the Rito Award criteria with our team and they were convinced this would be a great idea, as it would bring great outcome for our children, team and parents in terms of healthy living.

Q. What has been the feedback from parents and teachers?
Teacher comment:
Through our journey, it has allowed us to build a close relationship with our parents while giving the support to encourage healthy eating among children.

Parent comment:
"I always pack my child’s lunch, and now she wants to make sure she has some fruit packed in her lunch box so now we make it together. If she saw chips and treats go into her lunch she says to me “mum that’s not healthy!”.

Q. Were there any challenges? If yes, how did you overcome them?

A. Lunch from home. We believe the changes would be much easier if our preschool provided meals. Before the Healthy Heart Award there wasn’t a nutrition policy in place so there were lots of treats in our children’s lunch boxes. Things like fizzy drink, juice, flavoured milk, chocolate biscuits, bongo, chips, pies, fried chicken & chips and mama’s pre-pack lunch boxes sold at the dairy (full of junk).

As a team our first change within our preschool was to ask the parents to put two pieces of fruit in their children’s lunch box. The children bring their fruit to staff and they are cut nicely and presented on a fruit platter. The fruit platter is passed around the circle of children and each gets to pick what fruit they like to eat. This has given our children mana to choose and allows them to take lead in their own learning.

Q. Going forward, do you have any future plans?

A. We would like to continue onto the Whānau (Silver) and Pā-Harakeke (Gold) levels of the Healthy Heart Award as we have seen the great benefit to our children and families already!

Tongan proverb:
‘Kai ‘aki e ‘ilo, ‘oua kai ‘aki e ifo’
This proverb can be seen as a caution to not eat according to your taste but eat what you know will benefit your health.