How We Started

 
Growing Chefs! was founded by Merri Schwartz, a professional pastry chef. In the fine dining kitchens where she worked, Merri saw vast amounts of knowledge about food sustainability, nutrition, and local agriculture—but that knowledge stayed trapped behind kitchen walls. She founded Growing Chefs! as a tool to connect chefs and growers—along with their valuable knowledge—to local communities through a fun, empowering, educational program.
 
2005

  • Merri Schwartz founds Growing Chefs! and incorporates it as a non-profit society.

2006

  • The Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening Program is piloted in 2 elementary school classrooms in Vancouver: Champlain Heights and McDonald Elementary.
  • The program has 4 chef volunteers.

2007

  • The Volunteer Orientation Program is developed.
  • 13 chef volunteers are trained in basic classroom management and sent out into 4 elementary school classrooms.

2008

  • 30 chef volunteers visit 8 Vancouver schools.
  • A French language program is piloted at a French language school.
  • A satellite Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening Program runs in Penticton, B.C.
  • Growing Chefs! Ontario is piloted in London, Ontario.

2009

  • 65 volunteers visit 16 Vancouver classrooms.

2010

  • Executive Director Helen Stortini was hired.
  • 65 chef volunteers visit 17 Vancouver classrooms.
  • The Classroom Gardening Program pilots in Richmond, B.C., and Burnaby, B.C.

2011

  • More than 100 chef volunteers in 28 classrooms in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, and West Vancouver.

2012

  • An intermediate program for Grades 4-6 is piloted.
  • Launch in Comox on Vancouver Island with two classes.
  • More than 750 students participate in program.

2013

  • 34 classrooms in British Columbia, including 29 in the Lower Mainland, three in the Comox Valley, and two classes in Kelowna.
  • More than 115 chef volunteers.
  • 1020 students participate in the program.

2014

  • 34 classrooms in British Columbia, including 28 in the Lower Mainland, one in the Comox Valley, one in Victoria, and four classes in Kelowna.
  • More than 140 chef volunteers.
  • 1020 students participate in the program.

2015

  • 44 classrooms in British Columbia, including 33 in the Lower Mainland, six in Victoria, and two classes in Kelowna.
  • Launch of our first pilot fall intermediate program in three Lower Mainland classrooms
  • More than 145 chef volunteers.
  • 1230 students participate in the program.

2016

  • 44 classrooms in British Columbia, including 39 in the Lower Mainland, three in Victoria, and two classes in Kelowna.
  • More than 160 chef volunteers.
  • 1320 students participate in the program.
  • Coming Fall 2016: Second year of fall pilot intermediate program