volunteer profile

Happy Birthday to you and Growing Chefs!

This summer, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that classroom volunteer Vanessa Leung was fundraising for Growing Chefs! for her birthday! Thanks so much, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Vanessa!

Contact Jaydeen if you would like more information about how to donate your birthday! Read on to meet Vanessa!

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What about Growing Chefs resonates with you?

When I learned about Growing Chefs! my heart jumped out with a strong “YES!” I knew I had to get involved.

When I left home at 18, I only knew how to boil vegetables, pre-made dumplings and instant noodles. Years after, I still didn’t have the drive to learn how to cook a proper meal! My friends would have to bring cookware and utensils if they wanted to make dinner at my place.

For most of my life, I relied on and indulged in processed foods as a way to cover up hard emotions. It was not until my health took a toll, did realize that I had the ability to take care of myself and use whole foods as medicine! It was like diving into a black hole of self-healing and clarity. By then, I could only wish that I had this knowledge earlier in my life.

Growing Chefs! serves that very wish - My hope for kids of all ages to have access to tools to help them feel empowered to make healthy choices for themselves. Growing Chefs! curriculum cultivates curiosity, community and creativity for the kids PLUS it’s so much FUN!

What is your favourite Growing Chefs! lesson?

They are all my favourite, but if I had to choose one it would be vegetable sharing circle. I’ve always believed that sharing is empowering and in this class the kids get to share a sneak peak into their classmate’s favourite meals at home and get to learn about vegetables from all over the world.

I think just being in the presence of their pure excitement and joy over every class is moving to me. This year, the class sang “Here Comes the Sun” while we were cleaning up after a class. It was a perfect way to wrap up a Growing Chefs! class and a memory I’ll hold dear to me forever.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yes I do! I live in a condo and we have planter boxes surrounding the perimeter of our humble balcony. It does the job! We get a constant supply of kale, cilantro and herbs. Even my dog, Barley, gets to have his share of kale!

What's your favourite vegetable?

My favourite vegetable is broccoli! I love it as a salad with other bright coloured vegetables, stir-fried with loads of garlic or roasted with lemon juice. I eat EVERYTHING, right down the stems. The stems are the most nutritious part!

What's your favourite seasonal recipe?

My favourite seasonal recipe would be sea asparagus with pasta. I just stir-fry the sea asparagus, add fresh minced garlic and extra virgin olive oil and toss with brown rice pasta of choice. Super simple and delicious!

Last year your business, 80/20 Living & Company made a donation to Growing Chefs! Tell us a little more about the work you do?

80/20 Living & Company is a space where people would feel inspired and learn tools to live a conscious and intentional life full of abundance. Through coaching and training, I guide creative entrepreneurs to work through their fears and connect to their body mind and spirit so they can feel confident about who they are and what they do. They learn how to stop wasting time and energy so they can start focusing on loving and sharing their gifts.

My big vision is to start a life school for families where families can connect by learning and sharing together.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I’ve always been inspired by kids and their wisdom. All they require is the space to share their creativity and wisdom. I’ve learned so much from the kids over the past 3 years, it has been the root of my inspiration in starting the life school for families.

I think that the work that Growing Chefs! is doing is so monumental in the future for our community. Thank you for setting the path and being a leader for healing changes!

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.