Donor Profile: Earth's Own


Our Adopt a Classroom program makes it easy for companies to get involved with Growing Chefs! This 2018/2019 school year, Earth's Own generously adopted four classrooms, providing the opportunity for these teachers and kids to experience our Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program when they otherwise couldn't.

We caught up with Robyn Skinner to talk a little about Earth’s Own new branding, and why they support Growing Chefs!

How long have you been working at Earth's Own, and what do you do there?

I started at Earth’s Own in May 2018, so I am still relatively new. That being said, since joining the team our plant-based mission has really impacted the way I look at + think about food. I have adopted a mostly plant-based diet and really believe in our mission.

The best way to describe my job is that I am a Plant-Based Connector. My #1 role as a Brand Manager is to get more people eating more plants. It’s as simple as that!

What is the most exciting part of working at Earth's Own?

Right now… everything! We are all about creating change. At Earth’s Own we’re on a mission to make plant-based living delicious and doable. Why? Because plants make us feel good, they’re good to the earth and they are great for communities. In short, we think a plant based diet can save the world and that’s really exciting!

Oh and Oat Milk. I’m low-key obsessed with Oat Milk! It is the new environmental kid on our plant-based block. If you haven’t tried it yet, we highly recommend. It’s rich and creamy like milk, grown using 7x less water than Almond or Dairy Milk and it supports Canadian Farmers.

Tell us a little more more about the company.

At Earth’s Own, we’re here to stand up for the planet and our health. We don’t see plant-based living as a “vegan” thing, it’s an everybody thing. We see eating plants as a healthier choice for the Earth and our bodies. Plants use less water, land and energy and are more nutritious. We dig ‘em so much, even our cartons are made from plants! We have some pretty big goals for the Plant Generation, but as I said above it’s really about inspiring more people to eat more plants.


We see Earth’s Own has a new logo! Tell us more about your new branding.

Yes! We have re-designed our logo to align back to our mission. “We dig plants!” You’ll now start to see this branding come to life. We also will be launching a new website and are updating all of our packaging, starting in February. It’s a really exciting time for us and we can’t wait to share everything we have been working on.

What about Growing Chefs! resonated with your giving?

Well, if the future is plant-based, then it begins with our kids! We love how the Growing Chefs! program is teaching young ones how to grow their own veggies and turn them into healthy meals. In turn they teach their parents and families how to bring more plants into their meals. The more we can support making plants fun for kids, the better.

What was it like visiting the Growing Chefs! classroom?

I absolutely loved it! In November 2018, we were invited to act as judges for the end of the semester stir-fry competition. I couldn’t believe how excited the kids were to take the recipes they had personally created and cook them for us. They were so proud of what they had done and it tasted delicious! I remember one of the teams plated their dish with a side smear of Sriracha sauce. It definitely won the most “Spice-tastic” award!


Volunteer Profile: Chef Jason

We love the enthusiasm that our volunteers bring into the classroom, and we’re especially excited when we get to support volunteers through their own professional growth. Thank you Chef Jason for all you have given us. Your future students are lucky to have you!


Jason, how did you first hear about us?

I heard about Growing Chefs! on Twitter in 2014. I was just flipping through and a chef I follow had tweeted about it so I clicked on the tweet and link, and read up about it. After reading about it I thought it was something I’d like to help out with. 

When you’re not in the classroom role of “Chef Jason”, what are you up to?

Currently I’m in school to become a secondary school teacher, specifically a teaching chef in the cafeteria. As part of the Bachelor of Education program, we are to do a 3 week Community Field Experience where we can choose from quite an extensive list of places to volunteer at, with a focus on school-aged children.  When I saw Growing Chefs! was on the list I jumped at the opportunity to be able to work with them again as my previous experiences were awesome! 

What about Growing Chefs! makes you return as a volunteer?

The curriculum is so well thought out and easy to present and engaging, not just for the students but for volunteers also. The excitement of the students as you are walking towards the classroom and entering it is great. Teachers are always asking how to get it into their own classrooms and I think that’s a testament to their thoughts and feelings about the program and how it enriches the students' experience.

And the students are great. They have tons of questions and are truly interested in what we are looking to teach them. Seeing them excited about vegetables and trying vegetables that they normally wouldn’t experience is also a neat experience.

If someone is on the fence about volunteering, what would you say to them?

The program is extremely well set up. The Growing Chefs! team puts all volunteers through a training session where they give you the binder with the curriculum in it. It is all the lesson plans, materials, and tips and hints on working with school-aged children. It’s so well laid out and definitely, after going through the training session, I was set at ease.

A Recipe for Impact - 2017/2018 School Year Report

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At Growing Chefs! CHEFS teach kids to GROW, COOK, and EAT HEALTHY, JUST, SUSTAINABLE FOOD. Why do we do it?  Because too many kids (and grown-ups!) don’t know how important food is to our bodies, our community, and our planet. Too many kids aren’t excited to make nutritious choices, don’t know how or where food is grown, or have access to healthy, fresh, whole foods. We’re on a mission to change that! 

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Too often, when we ask kids where their food comes from, they say “the grocery store!” Or when we offer a student a new vegetable to try, they say “No way! I’m allergic!” Growing Chefs!works to change this. By connecting kids and chefs, we get kids to think differently about food. 

Suddenly that kale isn’t so yucky after all. In our programs, kids are hands-on with the entire food cycle from seed to plate to compost--digging in the soil, planting seeds, tending gardens, harvesting vegetables, learning basic cooking skills. Afterwards, kids that refused to eat vegetables, or kids that told us “I’m allergic!”  serve themselves third helpings of salad that they grew and cooked themselves. 

Through experiential learning, kids are inspired to make food choices that affect not only their personal health, but the health of the community, economy, and environment. 


Since we planted our first pea seeds back in 2005, we have worked with:

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In the 2017/2018 school year, we had our biggest and most exciting year yet. We worked with: 

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In the 2017/2018 school year, our program was in Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, Langley, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Burnaby, and Kelowna. 


It’s important to us that we evaluate the social impact we are making. Each year, we conduct pre-and post-knowledge surveys with our participating kids. 

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The Fall: 63 lessons


In September 2017, we kicked off our Intermediate Program, working with nine intermediate level (Gr. 4-7) classes and sending 35 chef and community volunteers into the classroom to deliver 63 hands-on lessons.

“Growing Chefs was like have a field trip come to us every second week for a whole term! I loved the program - the experimentation of growing and tasting new things and especially the interaction between the chefs and gardeners and the kids. Besides becoming more adventurous eaters I know my students gained a much better appreciation for locally grown things and how much fun it can be to experiment in the kitchen with food.”
--Valdine Ciwko, Teacher, Charles Dickens Elementary School

In our Intermediate Program, the students learn about local food and healthy food systems. They dive into activities that teach:

  • How to grow food

  • The different edible parts of a plant 

  • How to reduce food waste

  • Food miles and seasonality

  • Local food systems and how to support them 

They learn useful food and cooking skills such as how to: 

  • Properly handle a knife

  • Make a quick-pickle

  • Create healthy, nutritious snacks

  • Make a vegetable stock

  • Construct and write a recipe

  • Make homemade salad dressing

  • Cook their own stir-fry 

  • How to properly clean up after cooking  

Lesson Six: Stir it Up!

One of the highlights of our Intermediate Program is the Stirfry Competition. The kids work with their chefs to develop a recipe all of their own. The following lesson, they cook up their creations to serve before a team of special guest judges. This year, we had judges from Whole Foods, Telus, Shauna Gold Personal Real Estate Corporation, and BCIT Magazine come to taste.

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From the classroom: James McKinney Elementary 

After long debates and deliberation the previous week about which produce and seasoning would make the best flavour profile, the students were keen to get started. Their classroom had been converted into a mini kitchen with stations for washing, chopping, sauteing, and plating.  For 45 minutes the classroom bustled with activity: greens, peas, and beans plucked from the garden beds after weeks of care; bunches of spinach washed in the classroom sink with little fingers pulling back layers of leaves to rinse dark soil away. A student, tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth in intense concentration, used her newly learned knife skills to create precise, uniform cuts of broccoli, carrots, celery, beans and more. Clusters of kids gather around their dish, heads bent together in conference as they decide on their final plating. 

A hush falls over the students as the guest judges taste the four different stir fries. After careful thought, the judges announce the winners for best presentation, best flavour, most colourful, and most creative! Each student wins a spatula to take home.  

The Spring: 329 lessons

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In our Spring program for primary grades 1-3, the students also learn about local food and healthy food systems. They dive into activities that teach:

  • How to grow food

  • Composting and reducing food waste

  • Urban Agriculture

  • About vegetables from around the world

  • The different edible parts of a plant 

  • About vitamins and why we need them

  • Kitchen safety and cleanliness

They learn useful food and cooking skills such as how to: 

  • Properly handle a knife

  • Make homemade salad dressing

  • How to prepare various vegetables

  • How to stir-fry

The first day our volunteer chefs introduce themselves in their bright white chef jackets, as eager students describe flowers, plants, and bugs that they associate with gardens. It isn’t long before everyone has their hands in the dirt and are planting seeds that will over the course of 3 months grow into their very own classroom windowsill gardens. As the gardens grew so did students’ curiosity of all the new vegetables our chefs and their fellow classmates brought in to share. Arugula became a new favourite word to say by many tongue-tied students, even if the surprisingly spicy flavor resulted in a few scrunched up faces. While students were often eager to try foods made with what they had grown, there were still some that were hesitant about eating vegetables. With plenty of encouragement and cheers from their peers, and by involving them in the creation of the dish, many were willing to try a taste of the vegetables that came from their gardens. Students could hardly sit still whenever it came time to start one of our cooking lessons and gobbled up bowl after bowl of the healthy vegetables they had grown, harvested, and prepared themselves.

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“The Growing Chefs! program was engaging, and fun for my class. Almost every student said they loved it and were upset it was over. Watching the plants grow and taking care of the  garden helps them feel accountable and involved in the whole process, even on days when the Growing Chefs were not in our classroom.”
- Grade 2 Teacher from Lord Nelson Elementary

“Planting seeds is like having money to feed everyone” 
- Grade 2 Student from Southlands Elementary

From the Classroom: Captain James Cook Elementary

This year our foods with moods lesson fell during Ramadan and one of our students had decided to observe it for the first time. He happily participated during the whole lesson, making his baby cucumber into a superhero and discussing what urban agriculture is. When it came time for the lettuce taste test, where students taste a bunch of different types of lettuce, the chefs asked if the student if he wanted to take them home to try after sunset. The next lesson, he let the chefs know that he shared the lettuces with his mother and they did their own lettuce taste test together. He liked every single one. Every lesson after that he wanted to take home the leftover veggies to share and learn with his mother.

“A student in our classroom would always have unhealthy lunches (Nutella sandwich and a Kool-Aid) After the second lesson mystery vegetable tastings she mentioned that she had asked her parents to send fruit or veggies with lunch and they did!” 

- Natalia Ordonez, Classroom Volunteer

Our program continues to grow and with the amazing support of the Island Chefs Collaborative and our Victoria Program Liaison, Andrew Paumier, we were able to bring our classroom gardening and cooking program to 6 classrooms in the Victoria area. Twenty volunteers from local restaurants and the local nutritionist community helped to deliver 28 lessons to four primary classrooms and 14 lessons to two intermediate classrooms in the spring.

With support from the Central Okanagan Foundation and four community volunteers we were able to deliver our intermediate classroom gardening and cooking program to a very excited class at École Glenmore Elementary. The young chefs were excited to learn about and share their experiences with food, gardening, preserving, and get cooking together. Their final lesson was a competitive stir-fry competition which resulted in a three-way tie for first place as our guest judges were blown away by the students’ recipes and skills.


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Chefs are the heart of our program and about half of our volunteers are professional chefs eager to share their knowledge and passion for good food to inspire the next generation of chefs. We have a number of restaurants, such as Fairmont Vancouver Waterfront, Tacofino, and Earnest Ice Cream, who provide a whole volunteer team for a classroom. 

Our volunteer team has grown to include:

  • Gardeners and urban agriculturalists excited to get students hands in the dirt

  • Nutritionists and dieticians wanting to share their expertise in healthy eating

  • Students with a keen interest in local food looking to expand their own skills and leadership abilities in the classroom and to pass on their enthusiasm.

  • Front of house staff from local restaurants

  • Retired and student teachers

  • Parents of kids in our current classes

  • Parents of kids that have done our program 

Anyone can volunteer with our program and we have nearly 200 volunteers that want to support a healthy food system and get kids excited about good, whole food.  

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Our Big Farm Party

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In June, we organised a Big Farm Party, to celebrate these 194 exceptional volunteers that made the 2017/2018 Growing Chefs! program possible. Our party was gracefully hosted by Southlands Heritage Farm. The afternoon was fun-filled with a pie contest, a kid’s corner, farm tours and bee talks, goat visits, amazing ice cream, snacks, and beverages donated by our sponsors, a whole range of lawn games, and some fitting farm-style live music. A newborn baby chick named Artichoke stole everyone's heart.

Over 100 people attended this event, and we hope to repeat its success in the following years!


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Growing Chefs! is growing! To support our biggest program year ever, our team has welcomed new staff to help us deliver our record-breaking number of classrooms. 

Meet some of them here! 
Afton Bell, Program Liaison
Alan Chen, Program Liaison
Morgan Shupe, Program Liaison and Operations Assistant
Selma van Halder, Program Coordinator 


Digging in the SOYL

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This year Growing Chefs! partnered with Fresh Roots Farm to empower high school youth through food. 

Our Program Coordinator (and chef extraordinaire), Selma van Halder, coordinated the Community Eats portion of the SOYL summer program. Selma was in charge of kitchen management, lesson delivery, and meal preparation. 

Twice a week, Selma worked with six Fresh Roots youth to prepare lunch for more than 50 people. Fresh Roots farm produce grown right on the school grounds was given centre stage in these community meals, served outdoors on the farm.

Every meal, we had one of our wonderful Chef Volunteers in the classroom with us to share their unique perspectives and specific knowledge with the SOYL youth. The youth learnt how to cook for 50 people, prevent food waste all along the food chain, think about how our food choices impact the community around us, and how food can be a connector between cultures. We made pesto out of turnip tops, used zucchini in everything, and tried vegan aged cheeses. We made falafel, kimchi, salad rolls, and so much more!

Camp it Up!

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Along with partnering with Fresh Roots Farm for SOYL, we also joined them at their youth summer camps to teach a cooking lesson on their last day of camp. Our Program Liaison (and superstar chef!), Morgan Shupe, developed and taught two lessons with the campers. During the lesson, the campers cooked a healthy three-course meal from scratch and enjoyed a meal together. The campers also assisted in cleaning up during and after the lesson. All the campers were sent home with a recipe book so they could continue their kitchen adventures at home. Campers were introduced to kitchen basics, basic safety and sanitation, and learned how to have an adventure with their food.

On the first week, we made pesto, flatbreads, a giant salad, and coconut chia pudding with local fruit. And on the second week, we made gluten-free cornbread, honey butter, another giant salad, and more coconut chia pudding with local fruit. All of the vegetables used in the lessons were from Fresh Roots Farm with some of the produce even being picked by the campers themselves.

A successful first year of summer collaboration between Fresh Roots and Growing Chefs!

Think and Eat Green with our Teachers

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In the first week of July, we participated in Think and Eat Green’s Summer Institute, which is three days of workshops, plenary sessions, and networking for educators interested in school food systems topics. Many teachers are eager to include food education in their classroom but often feel they lack the basic culinary skills to do so. To address this Growing Chefs! led a kitchen skills workshop for 30 educators where we discussed:

  • Basic kitchen skills

  • How to create a food-safe environment in the classroom,

  • How to incorporate food literacy and cooking into their regular lessons and the B.C. curriculum.

Using the Growing Chefs! model of hands-on learning, participants not only learned new skills and how to connect these skills to their regular lessons, but also prepared a portion of the lunch for all the TEGS attendees. They also walked away with some classroom friendly recipes.


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Growing Chefs! has participated in a number of community events with our partners and supporters over the past year, such as the Stone Soup Festival, the Spot Prawn Festival, and the PNE’s Ag in the City to raise awareness for and educate families about food literacy issues through fun interactive games and activities. These are also great opportunities to connect with teachers interested in having our programs in their schools. We also participate in a number of on campus events at UBC, UBC farm, SFU, and Capilano University to reach university-aged students and increase their awareness of food-related issues.



Growing Chefs! volunteer chefs, board members, staff members, and students have been featured in print and on screen. We’ll be famous worldwide before you know it!

  • Interview on CTV News in September 2017 with volunteer Shannon & Growing chefs! student Sienna.

  • Interview on Global TV in December 2017 with Jaydeen, our Development and Communications Director,  & Growing Chefs! student Piper.

  • Article in Country Life in BC “Where good food comes from: Growing Chefs! Program for school children puts emphasis on seed to plate” in February 2018.

  • Interview on Roundhouse Radio, Fong on Food in April 2018 with Merri, our Founder & Board Chair, & Helen, our Executive Director.

Social Media Growth

In our 2017/2018 year, we grew our social media reach by more than 1,000 people! If you don’t already, be sure to connect with us! 


Of course, this jam-packed year full of food literacy fun wouldn’t be possible without the support of our incredible donors. A huge thank you to our supporters.

From Farms to Forks 9 Thank You!

A thank you from our Growing Chefs! Founder, Merri Schwartz

From Farms to Forks Nine, you’ve come in with the harvest,
When chefs fill their pots and our farms work their hardest.
And before we head off to eat, drink, and make merry,
A quick list of thanks—for we’re grateful—yes, very!

The usual thanks go out firstly to PICA,
We’re here, you’re our hosts, and we’re so pleased to see ya.
Next, danke, Whole Foods, for your generous presence,
Merci Mission Hill for wine pairings in abundance.

Thanks for top sales go to Stania and Devi,
You drummed up the crowds and sold tickets so many.
A happiest birthday to dear Peter Blitz,
He set up the sound to hear poems—such as this.

And now to our chefs we say please take a bow,
Your work and your skill is a pure, fervent “wow”!
Hands over hearts, to our growers, salute!
You bring forth the bounty—veggie, meat, wine, and fruit.

Our volunteer team, you just blow us away,
Bar, wine, service, auction, door—we’d not be here today,
Without your time and your effort, and still more to list:
Fundraisers, photographers, and spouses—we blow you a kiss!

To Robbyn for bringing your management flair,
To Margaret and Fred, you are always the pair,
Who bring us to life, and engage us each year,
The kids whose stories may inspire a tear.

Our bushel sponsors—many—who donated in kind,
Tea, cheese, bread and soda—no better you’ll find.
Moody Ales and Strange Fellows have brought beer for your cup,
Thanks silent auction donors---now go snatch that stuff up!

For spirits and chocolate, thank Victoria and Mink,
From Pedersen’s the dishes—it just makes you think,
How many it takes to throw an event such as ours,
Our staff and our board—you’re each one true stars.

To Earth’s Own and to Telus, you bought tickets a-plenty,
SVP for support—you guide us so gently.
SpencerCreo: our office, and for the raffle--WestJet,
The list is tremendous—I’m not done quite yet!
Fiona for designing a program so stylish,
Artona for printing and fulfilling each wish.

Our media sponsors: Daily Hive, Edible, and Scout,
You spread the word to make sure we sell out.
And last but not least a big hand one and all,
You’re here and the poem’s done—now go have a ball!


10 Skills Kids Learn While Cooking


This summer, Growing Chefs! joined the THINK&EATGREEN@SCHOOL Summer Institute  at UBC to teach a workshop called "How to Bring the Kitchen into the Classroom". Our goal was to help and support teachers wanting to bring food and food literacy into their classroom conversations. We shared how we manage to teach cooking in a classroom without an actual kitchen and we did a few of our favourite classroom activities. During the workshop, we gave examples how cooking can mirror and build on current curriculum already taught in the classroom.

Cooking can teach children (and adults too!) so many great skills. Here are a few examples:

Reading, writing, and verbal communication through recipes.Increases vocabulary and introduces children to other languages (sauté - French / bagel - Yiddish / ect.).

Explore where different types of foods are from, diets of different cultures, mapping the food miles of a meal, and the path food must travel to our plate.

How and where different foods grow. Discussing food miles, how to reduce waste (packaging and food waste).

Following a recipe includes counting, fractions, and measuring. Many kitchen skills relate to shapes and spatial reasoning (cutting, plating). Opportunities to introduce budgeting.

Parts of the plant, parts of an animal (cuts of meat). Making observations and exploring food using our five senses. Opportunities for experimenting and making predictions. Chemistry - physical and chemical reactions in the kitchen (bread rising, bread to toast, emulsification etc). 

What people ate in the past and why. Opportunities to explore different food preparation methods/tools and how this has impacted our diet.

Understanding nutrition, food safety, and cleanliness.

Exploring new foods, creating recipes, food as art (plating). 

Responsibility, cooperation, sharing, self-esteem, and patience.