Volunteer-run program teaches school kids about growing, cooking their own food

Click to play video: '‘I made my mom pancakes’: Okanagan initiative teaches kids how to grow, cook healthy food' ‘I made my mom pancakes’: Okanagan initiative teaches kids how to grow, cook healthy food
WATCH ABOVE: Community reporter Shay Galor visits Belgo Elementary School in Kelowna to learn about Chefs in the Classroom, a community-led initiative teaching school children how to get passionate about growing and making their own food – May 22, 2019

With eating out becoming a bigger and bigger trend for adults, educating children about growing and cooking their own food has become a classroom initiative.

“Chefs in the Classroom — we’re in our fourth year now and it is a program that teaches children how to grow, cook and eat local healthy foods and the importance of doing that,” said president Debbie MacMillan.

The initiative started with six schools and has grown yearly.

Today, nine classrooms participate in the program in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Summerland and Naramata.

Each team is comprised of volunteer chefs, cooks, nutritionists, gardeners and parents who want to ignite a passion for healthy eating in this younger generation.

“We are happy to be a registered non-profit society now,” MacMillan said. “One hundred per cent run by volunteers and one hundred per cent funded by our sponsors.”

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The program spans six weeks each spring.

“We cover planting a garden, how to take care of your garden, how to make a fruit compote,” MacMillan said. “Today we’re making a spring soup. We do scrambled eggs, tomato, lettuce and cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese. So we make learning and eating a lot of fun.”

Grade 3 teacher Lynn Harshenin says the children have really taken to the program.

“Every Monday when I say the chefs in the classroom are coming, the kids get all excited,” Harshenin said.

Payton Johnstone, a Grade 3 student, has been taking the lessons and practising them at home.

“I feel pretty proud when I make it,” Payton said. “It’s not big things but I made smoothies yesterday morning and I made my mom pancakes.”

Another student, Shea Stewart, is excited to learn how to make his favourite meal.

“One meal I’d want to make would be probably my own salmon,” Shea said. “Try to make a salmon with quite a bit of thyme and kale and all that.”

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The Chefs in the Classroom program is in high demand but applications will be considered next month should any new schools want to participate in the 2020 season.

“They are our future generation of food champions and that is so important,” MacMillan said.

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