Feeding the Future: Chefs in the Classroom
By Roslyne Buchanan.
Gleeful sounds reverberate into middle school hallways and through the classroom doors, children, ages ranging from six to nine, are seen giggling with elbows deep in soil. Chefs in the Classroom (CIC) is in the house and it’s hard to determine whether it’s the kids or the program volunteers having the most fun.
An initiative of the Okanagan Chefs Association (OCA), Chefs in the Classroom – edible education program (a trademarked property) was launched in Spring 2016 and continues to grow in popularity in Okanagan schools. You don’t have to be a member of the OCA to volunteer and reap the benefits of this rewarding experience.
While the OCA modelled it after other successful edible education classes all over North America, CIC is an Okanagan-inspired, hands-on curriculum with links to our Aboriginal community and practices. The highlight of the six-lesson course is a field trip to a working farm with lunch hosted by OCA chefs and volunteer teams.
The mission is “to educate children in our community how to grow, cook and eat Okanagan fruits and vegetables”. The program is divided into modules that “engage and inspire children through hands on and interactive real-life experiences”. Through active participation, the children are introduced to farming and gardening best-practices in our community.
Besides exercising their green thumbs, the children scrub up, don chef hats and learn to slice, dice and prepare recipes they can recreate at home. Again, it’s hard to determine once the food created from the recipes is shared in the classroom whether it’s the volunteers or children who most enjoy eating the fruits of their labour.
I can personally attest to the joy in helping feed the future as a CIC volunteer. I participated two years at Peachland Elementary, two years at Penticton Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School, and this year I’m joining in the fun at Trout Creek Elementary.
Maria Grant, a parent from the Anne McClymont school, 2017, said, “I believe it is a wonderful addition to the classroom to encourage young people to learn about where their food comes from and to get in touch with it. Not all children get to have that experience and I think it is invaluable! Thank you very much for bringing this opportunity to so many children, I hope it is able to become a staple in every school!”
To learn more about CIC and the amazing sponsors who make it happen, visit www.chefsintheclassroom.com Participating schools are selected based on the school’s interest and the availability of volunteers and sponsorship. In Spring 2019, schools include Naramata Elementary, Trout Creek Elementary, Peachland Elementary, and in Kelowna, Belgo, Casorso, Dorothea Walker, Pearson Road, and Watson Road.
If you’d like to volunteer or become a sponsor, contact Debbie Macmillan, CIC Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org. This year’s orientation is April 1 so don’t delay or put volunteering into your plans for Spring 2020. (Particularly needed in 2019 are a gardener/farmer for the school teams in Kelowna; and for the organizing committee, some administrative support, a volunteer coordinator, photographer and web maintenance person.)