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Two decades of healthy choices for tamariki

The Heart Foundation is celebrating 20 years of the Tohu Manawa Ora | Healthy Heart Award programme.

Two small boys enjoying a shred lunch of sandwiches at their early learning centre.

For 20 years, the Heart Foundation has been committed to improving nutrition and increasing the physical activity of our tamariki through its Tohu Manawa Ora | Healthy Heart Award programme.

For BestStart Rongotai, the opportunity to have the support of a dedicated nutrition advisor providing guidelines, advice, menus and resources has led to a long-term dedication to creating a heart-healthy environment in their early learning service.

“We have been enrolled in the Tohu Manawa Ora | Healthy Heart Award for nine amazing years and have found the resources, ideas and professional development sessions so helpful!” says Christine Hope, Manager at BestStart Rongotai.

“A highlight for us would be the activities we have incorporated to introduce and encourage healthy eating practices,” adds Christine, “such as having the children grow broccoli themselves, which they are always so curious about and love to eat because of the connection they make with it.”

Supporting early learning services

Since 2002, nutrition advisors from the Heart Foundation have been helping create healthy lunchboxes and opportunities for physical activity for tamariki across New Zealand.

The methods have progressed over the last few years so that now they support and monitor the early learning services’ progress through a state-of-the-art online portal whereby both can communicate regularly about their practices.

Last year alone, the Heart Foundation worked with over 600 early learning services achieving nearly 200 awards and reaching almost 40,000 tamariki.

“The award has really helped us here to maintain the best possible standards for our tamariki when it comes to healthy eating and exercise,” says Christine. “Our staff now have great inspiration for recipes and healthy celebrations featuring a variety of foods.”

Healthy tamariki, healthy whānau

Children can also positively influence their whānau on improved eating patterns and a healthy lifestyle. For all of us, but particularly children who are growing up in an activity-poor and food-rich environment, the opportunity to eat high-fat and high-sugar food is never too far away. What the Heart Foundation has achieved over the last 20 years, and will continue to do for the foreseeable future, is provide an alternative that resonates with a contemporary learning environment and gives tamariki the best possible chance of living healthy lives.

“The children are benefiting and so are the parents,” adds Christine. “They are grateful for the healthy and varied meals as they don’t have the time to make a nutritious meal every night. Sometimes the parents are even surprised to hear the variety of foods that their children are trying at the centre as they won’t even try those same foods at home!”

Any early learning service in New Zealand with under-5s can register for this free service funded by the Ministry of Health. The programme offers 3 different levels to support your centre through this journey towards the greatest heart health: Rito, Whānau, and Pā- Harakeke. Early learning services which complete an award by the end of June 2023 receive a free gift.

“We couldn’t be happier to be taking part in this amazing programme and will continue to strive for more awards in the future,” says Christine. “We think every early learning service should have a nutrition advisor from the Heart Foundation and we can’t recommend the programme enough!”

Sign up now or learn more about taking your first steps on an award journey by visiting:


Tohu Manawa Ora | Healthy Heart Award