December 17, 2012 by projectchef
Season’s Greetings from Project CHEF,
We have the burners on high as we cook our way to the end of the year. What a terrific term we have had with Project CHEF! At the close of 2012, I want to give you a brief update on the autumn term.
We have just completed our busiest year yet. This fall we moved in and set up our 7 portable kitchens in 14 schools, teaching 720 children from 26 classes. We also involved approximately 400 parents and community volunteers in our classroom kitchens. This brings the total number of children Project CHEF has been fortunate to teach to over 6000. That’s a lot of children and a mountain of healthy food prepared and consumed!
This fall we also taught two professional development days to the teachers and support staffs from Bayview and Grenfell Elementary Schools. Here we taught both school staffs about the Project CHEF program and food education in preparation for the schools to host the Project CHEF In Residence Programs next term. The two schools will embrace the goals of the program as school goals and food education will be a focus in all of the classrooms.
The excitement in each school we visit is palpable and the children (as well as teachers and parents) are keen to get busy in the kitchens. In many schools this term we have been able to harvest from school gardens, demonstrating from garden to table and back to the garden.
In all schools the classes are open to learning knowledge about healthy food choices and skills to empower them to create their own food. We also see a shift in attitudes toward food as they try new ingredients they have never tried. Children of all abilities are 100% engaged in their learning.
Our young chefs explain:
“When you cook, you open your mind and try new food.”
“It changed the way I think about food by me learning how it’s made, how to have balanced meals and how it affects you.”
“Cooking calms you down and you forget your worries.”
A parent volunteer wrote: “My son has come home teaching us about healthy eating, which parts of the fruit are full of fibre, or what spices he likes. He’s tried new foods he wouldn’t try before and loved them and he’s helping cook at home. AND he’s reading labels!”
Another wrote that the program “gave the kids experience with real cooking techniques, including using knives and heat, along with best practices for safety.”
A teacher summarized the program this way: Project CHEF “is hands on, empowering and brings families together. Effects are long lasting and really life changing for many.”
Learning takes place during kitchen time as well as in different curricula, as teachers use Project CHEF as a springboard to: research, writing, math, science experiments, art, as well as using new technology for learning, including IPad and Smart Board student presentations. We are also on Twitter and students are summarizing their reflections and tweeting their thoughts.
We see the impact the program has on the children but also the parents, as parent volunteers tell us everyday. “I have learned so much to feed my family.”
When visiting schools where we have taught before, we can see a lasting impact as many schools are continuing to cook with children using our routines, equipment lists and recipes. One example is Tyee Elementary, where two classes of students made our tomato sauce recipe then froze it to feed the group while they were at camp this fall.
We continue to source from local farms and we tell the children about the people that grow their food, giving a name and story to an often industrialized food system. “I have never really thought about who grew my food but now I always thinks about who grew my food when I eat it,” a grade five chef wrote.
This term Project CHEF was highlighted in different media. Vancouver School Board produced a documentary last year about Project CHEF and this 16 minute film is featured on our website blog. The Vancouver Sun featured a full-page article about Project CHEF and I was interviewed about the program on the CBC Radio One show, BC Almanac. There was a clip on the CTV noon news about Project CHEF in November.
The program was featured in an article in the provincial Directorship of School Health (DASH) November Newsletter, one of our recipes is featured in a new cookbook, the Soup Sisters Cookbook, and Project CHEF is discussed in a new book by Eleanor Boyle: High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat. Additionally, there have been articles written about Project CHEF this fall and featured on the BC Dairy Association website, and on author Karen LeBillon’s blog.
In September, a new Public Health Association of BC resource was sent out to each school and community group in BC entitled A Fresh Crunch in School Lunch: The BC Farm to School Guide. I was a part of the development committee for this resource and Project CHEF is discussed in this publication with one of our recipes included in the guide.
2013 will mark our sixth year of teaching Project CHEF. We will restart the program on January 14th and will run for 17 weeks, reaching 1000 children. The spring term will be largely devoted to taking the Project CHEF In Residence Program to two schools, teaching kindergarten to grade seven. There will also be school-wide activities around healthy eating at these schools that we will keep you abreast of.
Our website was updated this fall and we have started this new blog that will post updates about the program as well as healthy recipes for children and families. Throughout the term we have made daily posts on the Project CHEF Facebook and Twitter accounts to update “what’s cooking” in the program. We hope that you will follow us to keep updated about Project CHEF.
On behalf of the Project CHEF team, we send our very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy 2013. May you share good food with family and friends during the holiday season.