Growing Chefs! Transforming choosy kids into kale crusaders

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Kids can be picky eaters and often choose food with high sugar and fat content over suspicious but nutritious greens. This reality is even more prevalent for low income families who cannot always afford fresh vegetables or quality protein. How do we change these patterns and instill healthy food habits in children from an early age?

Enter Growing Chefs! Chefs for Urban Agriculture into the classrooms of Vancouver’s inner-city elementary schools. Growing Chefs! gets kids excited about growing, cooking and eating healthy food by involving them in the entire process, from the seed to the plate.

In their Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program, chef and community volunteers guide children to grow their own food in windowsill gardens, harvest the produce, and cook and enjoy the veggies of their labour. As the seeds transform into plants, the children transform their attitudes about food and learn about nutrition, food security, where their food comes from, and how healthy food choices affect their lives and community.

Growing Chefs!

Image: Growing Chefs!

“This isn’t limited to the classroom. The kids are taking what they learn here and bringing it into their homes. That’s where the change begins,” says Chef volunteer Jenn Peruka.

In 2014-15, 145 Growing Chefs! volunteers served a record 1,290 students in 43 classrooms. The demand is growing and there is currently a waitlist for their program in more than 15 elementary schools. Here’s how you can help:

  • Volunteer with Growing Chefs! – do you have two to three hours a week during the day to bring the joy of healthy local food into elementary school classrooms?
  • Donate to Growing Chefs! – the Growing Chefs! program costs $4,000 per classroom to run and is funded by grants and individual donations.
  • Attend From Farm to Forks – If you missed this year’s event on October 4, be sure to get tickets for the 2016 Growing Chefs! annual fundraiser at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Wander through gourmet tasting stations paired with local wine, beer and cocktails from some of Vancouver’s most prominent chefs and mixologists.

With SVP Vancouver’s grant and Partners’ time and expertise, Growing Chefs! has been able to hire additional staff to meet classroom demand, pilot a program for intermediate classes, develop a fundraising strategy and plan, and expand to communities across B.C. using a franchise model.


This Charity Spotlight brought to you by

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Social Venture Partners is a privately funded foundation established in 2001 with a mission of engaged philanthropy, more commonly referred to as venture philanthropy. They invest time, money and professional expertise in local non-profits to help strength their organizational capacity and scale their impact. There are 39 SVP chapters in eight countries; they operate with the same values but take a local approach to our philanthropic investments. Visit svpvancouver.org to find out more.

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