Founder, Clean Plate
Master of Public Health student
Graduate Diploma in Health Science
Passionate about promoting sustainable diets to children, Fern Pereira was drawn to AUT’s public health programmes.
“I’m a professional chef who has moved from hospitality to the education sector about a decade ago and I’ve been promoting a holistic approach to healthy eating to children and their whānau since. I decided to go back to university after 20 years because I felt I needed a formal qualification connected to the work I do.
“The Graduate Diploma in Health Science was the perfect choice for me, as it allowed me to study part-time without impacting on my day-to-day job. AUT’s public health programmes are forward-thinking, introducing students to the latest science, trends and global agendas – including planetary health, the impact of technology and innovation and the skills students must develop to ensure they’re well placed in the job markets of today and in the future.”
The right choice
She has had many highlights throughout her studies, says Fern who completed her graduate diploma in mid-2019.
“My lecturers have been superb – constantly generous with their time and knowledge, and always making me feel supported and encouraged to follow my curiosity and interests. I love being at AUT because I’m always meeting interesting people from different backgrounds, countries and cultures who bring with them new ideas and ways to look at things.”
She also appreciated being able to apply what she was learning to her own business, Clean Plate, which provides a holistic approach to healthy eating and wellbeing for early childhood education settings, schools and communities.
“We’re not only addressing children’s individual health but also the health of their communities and the natural environment. We specialise in providing children, whānau, schools and early learning settings with wholesome recipes, hands-on cooking sessions and educational workshops. We take a food systems approach and focus on reducing the pressure on natural and human resources by focusing on sustainability, while promoting nourishing diets that are good for our bodies as well as the planet.
“Being at AUT has benefitted my work so much – I’ve been able to link the latest research, as well as global and national trends in the health promotion and public and environmental health sectors with the work I do.”
An inspiring academic environment
Deciding to continue into postgraduate study was easy, says Fern who is a member of the AUT Child and Youth Health Research Centre and a research assistant at the AUT Human Potential Centre.
“During my graduate diploma I took every opportunity to connect my studies to my mahi, and it was just a natural progression into postgraduate study to make these ‘study – work’ connections even more relevant and applicable to real life. I’m now enrolled in the Master of Public Health and loving it.”
For her research, Fern is auditioning the healthiness and eco-friendliness of Year 6 students’ lunchboxes across socio-economically diverse Auckland schools. She is supervised by Professor Grant Schofield and Dr Tom Stewart from the AUT Human Potential Centre.
Grounded in a novel eco-nutrition approach, the study will be the first school-based lunchbox analysis by food processing level in New Zealand, and the second worldwide. This will also be the first study globally to explore the relationship between the packaging sustainability of lunchbox foods and their processing level, while determining socioeconomic variations across Auckland schools.
“I’m planning to continue letting my findings in academia guide the work I do, and hopefully help improve the health of our children and the planet along the way. I’m currently involved in a number of projects on this topic, and see my research as an essential puzzle piece that will hold all other pieces together – due to the data it will generate – and create a solid foundation to my work as I move forward.”