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Growing Chefs! volunteer chef transforms veggie haters to kale crusaders

Posted by SVP Vancouver

Chef volunteer Jenn Peruka didn’t think the Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening and Cooking program would make a difference for one of the Gr. 3 students in her Strathcona Elementary school class.

“At the start of the program, one really stubborn kid outright proclaimed she hated vegetables,” recalls Jenn. But after three and half months of hands-on gardening and cooking lessons—getting the student’s hands in the dirt, planting seeds, caring for the growing plants, learning to chop vegetables, and prepare simple meals—things started to change. “By the end of the program she was eating vegetables with her classmates and connecting with them in this shared experience.”

This transformation—from veggie hater to kale crusader—is something heard from volunteers and teachers every year. And it doesn’t just stop in the classroom.

“A moment that stuck with me most was one of the young girls excitedly telling me during one of our classes that she had asked her mom to make the pea soup that we made the previous week,” remembers Jenn. “That’s when it occurred to me that this isn’t just something that’s limited to the classroom. The kids are taking what they are learning here and bringing it into their homes. That’s where the change begins and I was so grateful to be a part of that.”

This story – and many others – reinforce the difference Growing Chefs! is making in students’ lives. Their hands-on lessons get kids excited about eating nutritious foods and provides them with the skills, knowledge, and most importantly, desire, to become lifelong healthy eaters.

Thanks to the Social Venture Partners’ support, Growing Chefs! was able to bring this hands-on gardening and cooking experience to more than 1000 students in 2014 in 34 classrooms with the involvement of over 100 chef volunteers. Growing Chefs! currently has a waiting list of more than 15 schools hoping to participate in the program. In 2015, Growing Chefs! aims to work with even more students in 2015 to meet this demand and continue to help students make healthy food choices.

“I think that eating vegetables is important if you want to be strong and do sports and stuff.”
Jennifer Lin, Gr. 3 student, Strathcona Elementary School