classroom

The 2018/19 School Year

School’s out for summer and that’s a wrap on our 2018/19 program year, once again our biggest program year to date.

We are very excited to share that thanks to 249 volunteers we were able to bring our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program to 73 classrooms across 13 school districts in B.C. That’s over 1,600 kids learning to grow and cook healthy food!

Every classroom starts our program by planting seeds to start their own indoor windowsill garden. Students then observe and care for their gardens over the course of our three months in their classroom until it is time for us to harvest and cook with what we’ve grown.

As the gardens grow, our chefs introduce kids to new and interesting vegetables, encouraging them to explore new flavours. Our participating teachers observed their students become more willing and interested in trying new foods throughout the course of the program in their classrooms.

Students also learn about nutrition, how foods affects our bodies, and the importance of eating healthy. Entire classrooms would go crazy for second and third helpings of salad made from spinach after hearing how it helps make them stronger. A grade 2 student from one of our classrooms at Van Horne Elementary has even made a habit of showing his teacher the healthy snacks he brings in his lunch every day after their class participated in our healthy salad making lesson.

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Every Growing Chefs! lesson involves eating and tasting but no lesson is more exciting for students, teachers, and volunteers alike than our stir fry cooking lesson. Students excitedly sit in their chairs as they watch our chefs go over how to use a knife and demonstrate their knife skills. A grade one class at Tecumseh Elementary even broke out into a chorus of “oo’s and ah’s” as our chef demonstrated how to core and slice a green pepper.

Together students harvest our gardens, washing and laying out all their vegetables, and prepping everything working together in teams. As we start cooking, a murmur of exclamations about the aromas and sounds coming from our sizzling woks starts to spread throughout the group until they cannot contain their enthusiasm and everyone begins talking about how hungry and excited to eat they are.

Servings are dished out and chefs, students, teachers, and even some guests sit down together to enjoy the product of their labours. Seeing the thoughtfulness and pride students take in their creation and participation in our classroom “kitchens” confirms that we have planted the seeds to creating lifelong healthy eaters.

We are so grateful to all of our volunteers and supporters who helped us make this year a success! The impacts you have helped us made are huge:

  • 81% of teachers surveyed agree they saw an improvement in healthy eating habits and healthy food included in student lunches and snacks.

  • 98% of teachers surveyed agree their students’ knowledge about where food comes from and sustainable food systems improved through our program.

  • 100% of teachers surveyed agree that the Growing Chefs! Program improved students willingness to try new foods.

Volunteer Spotlight: Brennen Murray

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Our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program is 100% delivered by our wonderful volunteers. We literally could not do what we do without the generous support of our volunteers who not only donate their time but their knowledge. Since it is National Volunteer Week and we have the BEST volunteers, we want to highlight a few. First off is a first-time volunteer (with us), Brennen Murray.

Hi! Tell us a little about yourself.
”Hello! My name is Brennen Murray. I've worked in coffee and food for over ten years, am a barista and a cook at Renfrew Park Community Centre as well as with The Kidsafe Project. I am interested in food sovereignty, urban farming, and localized food systems. I live in a communal home on Victoria Drive where we work to build a closer, sharing community and learn more about growing things.”

We hear you're a worm guy. Tell us more!
”When I first moved to Vancouver and started becoming an urban gardener, I found container gardening to be inefficient and needing constant fertilizing and found myself wishing for the compost pile that was always rotating around the backyard I grew up with. A little bit of research brought me to the City Farmer Vermicomposting Program, which I recommend to anyone wishing to recycle their food scraps into healthy soil for growing things. My initial $25 dollar kit has grown over the years into several bins of worms feeding off the food scraps from a household of six and giving a welcome dose of organic soil every 6 months as well as compost tea (fertilizer) that can be used at any time.”

How did you hear about Growing Chefs?
”I came across Growing Chefs! in the fall while looking for ways to get involved in food security and food sovereignty.”

What made you interested in volunteering with us?
”With The Kidsafe Project, it is my responsibility to feed kids at my site during school breaks, but also to teach them about nutrition and the foods we eat. Growing Chefs! has a great curriculum that teaches kids all about growing food and ways to use it. I'm excited to watch kids interact with food in such a hands on manner and bring that excitement for food to the kids at Kidsafe.”

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What's your favourite seasonal vegetable?
”Summertime: cucumbers, for the crisp, juicy bite fresh off the plant. Wintertime: Brussels Sprouts, because they grow all winter and just keep getting better.”

What is your earliest food-related memory?
”Either walking down the tall narrow rows of strung up peas in my mother’s garden, harvesting thick pods into a colander and often opening the pods and eating the peas fresh; or tip-toeing in the strawberry patch, turning the berries over to see which ones had ripened all the way around and were ready for eating.”

How did your first lesson in the classroom go?
”It was incredible! We examined seeds and their full grown vegetable form, planted the seeds, and imagined and hoped for a beautiful growing garden. I was definitely just as excited as the kids and can't wait to get back into the classroom for lesson two.”

Thank you so much Brennen - we (and your class) are lucky to have you.

Stay tuned this week for more volunteer spotlights.