Summary of Project CHEF Achievements for 2012-2013

TEG community partner Project CHEF has released a summary of the work they have done in Vancouver schools over the past year. Highlights of this programs achievements include:

  • working with 1500 students in 55 classes
  • evaluation from school staffs shows 100% of school staff members rated the program as excellent
  • received the BC School Superintendent’s Association Award of Recognition for contributions to public education
  • students became guest bloggers for the Project CHEF blog
  • iPad video presentations about Project CHEF were created
  • the demand for the program far exceeds the present ability to deliver as there are 19 schools on the registration list from last September, and the program must now be run by lottery.

For the full summary of the Project CHEF program over the past year, read on.

Project CHEF Summary 2012 – 2013

Project CHEF has hung up the aprons for the 2012 – 2013 school year, our biggest and best year yet! This school year we ran for 28 weeks, working with 1500 children from 55 classes, kindergarten to grade 7. This marks our sixth year of operation and we are proud to say that thus far we have reached 6990 children from 245 classes in 88 schools and have directly involved over 3700 parent and community volunteers.
Each year I am increasingly struck by the power of food to improve our health, our communities and our environment as we grow, cook, learn about and share food with children, teachers, parents and community members. We see this in our daily experiences in the classrooms but also in the written comments of the participants. A principal commented, “Thank you for bringing our community together through food.” A teacher wrote, “Project CHEF has built our school community and given us all a common experience. We have loved eating together, learning together, cooking together and celebrating together. Project CHEF is leaving us a better and wiser school.” A parent wrote, “Project CHEF is the joy of learning, 10-fold” and another wrote that in Project CHEF, “Food comes across so positively. All kids should be so lucky. It’s a wonderful start to a lifetime of cooking.” A grade 7 student wrote, “Project CHEF brought food closer to my life.” “Food isn’t just a meal. Food is a thing that should be enjoyed and that makes you stay strong, healthy and happy,” a grade 4 student wrote, and a grade 1 student wrote that his favourite part of Project CHEF was “cooking and dining with my friends.”  We built relationships with food and in doing so we built relationships with others in the school and community.
Every class was excited to cook and try new foods. Children of all abilities were fully engaged in learning and then keen to get home and cook for and with their families.  A special education teacher sent me a letter describing how empowering the program was for her special needs students, stating, “This week my students got to experience Project Chef and they were thrilled at how successful they were.  You were able to support them with your examples, clear instructions and visuals so that they had no difficulty fully engaging and contributing to their group’s assignments.  In fact, they shone in this environment.  They were able to demonstrate their newly found “chef” skills along with their fellow students and many went straight home to demonstrate their new found talents to their families as well.  In one of my grade 5’s words “Project Chef was awesome! I’m really good at all this and I love what we made!”
This school year we have, once again, collected evaluative data from all of the program participants. Evaluation from school staffs shows 100% of school staff members rated the program as excellent.
Six years of data collection is a considerable data bank.  Teachers, administrators, parents and children overwhelmingly endorse the program as the impact on children and families can be seen in the classrooms and, more importantly, at home.  Anecdotal data and post-program feedback from parents and teachers shows positive changes have been noted in children’s knowledge about food, their skills in creating food for themselves and their families, and their attitudes toward food.
This Spring Project CHEF was honoured to receive the BC School Superintendent’s Association Award of Recognition for contributions to public education.  Additionally, we were asked to take part in provincial Ministerial task force and advisory committees, as the BC Ministry of Health seeks to improve the health of BC children.  We were a part of the BC Farm to Cafeteria Resource Reference Group to develop A Fresh Crunch in School Lunch: The BC Farm to School Guide that has been sent to every school and community group in BC.  In February we were also invited to participate in a Ministry of Health Provincial Food Skills Think Tank to explore how to develop food skills in BC. I am currently on the Public Health Association of BC Farm to School Task Force to help develop a strategic plan for Farm to School, as well as on the BC Ministry of Health/YMCA Advisory Committee to develop a Resource and Tool Kit for Healthy Eating in After School Settings.
Since fall, 2012, Project CHEF has received considerable promotion in the community.  This has included:
o   Choices Market Magazine, October, 2012
o   Directorship of School Health (DASH) November Newsletter, article, November, 2012
o   Vancouver School Board documentary “Project CHEF: Kids Can Cook”, 16 minute film is featured on our website blog
o   CTV News, segment on Project CHEF, November, 2012
o   Les Dames d’Escoffier International magazine, article, November, 2012
o   Author Karen LeBillon’s blog, article, November, 2012
o   Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution website mention and photo, December, 2012
o   BC Dairy Association website, article about Project CHEF, December, 2012
o   CBC Radio One, BC Almanac, interview with Mark Forsythe, December, 2012
o    Vancouver Sun, full-page article about Project CHEF, December, 2012
o   CNC World TV, segment on Project CHEF, January 2013
o   Canadian Food and Hospitality Association magazine, mention of Project CHEF in article about program supporter, John Bishop, February, 2013
o   UBC Faculty of Education, Down the Hall podcast interview, March, 2013
o   Outreach presentation to MCentred, April 2013
o   CBC French TV, segment on Project CHEF, April, 2013
o   Author, Eleanor Boyle’s new book High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat, writes about Project CHEF
o   Top Chef Canada contestant, Chef Matt Stowe’s blog, article, May, 2013
There were many highlights this year, including:
o   We taught three teacher professional development days during the school year where teachers learned about the program: how to plan for it and teach food education through curriculum. They were also immersed in the process of cooking and created a meal to share together.  These events have proven to be a wonderful springboard for successful program implementation.
o   Integrated learning was evident in the classrooms, kindergarten to grade 7, with program goals woven through curriculum pre, during and post Project CHEF. Science experiments around food took place; amazing food-related art was created; research was undertaken; community guests were interviewed; essays, poetry, letters, stories, journals and cookbooks were written; students became guest bloggers for our Project CHEF blog; iPad video presentations about Project CHEF were created; and Smart Board technology was used for student research presentations. Classes studying different cultures in Social Studies created dishes from around the world. A grade 7 class made history come alive while studying ancient Rome, creating a six course Roman feast based on 4 C recipes. The learning was inspiring and endless.
o   Many more schools now have school gardens and we were able to harvest from the gardens all year long and cook with the bounty thus demonstrating the full food cycle: plant, harvest, cook, dine and compost.  We also strengthened our relationships with local farmers and use as much local produce as possible in our daily program.
o   Those involved in the Project CHEF program became a community of learners. Many members of the community came into the classroom to share their expertise and volunteer their time, including Food Network Top Chef Canada contestant, Matt Stowe, Chef Rob Clark, and Olympian, Georgia Simmerling. The classrooms also went into the community and visited farms, restaurants and grocery stores, Granville Island Public Market and the Farmer’s Market.
o   Increased numbers of teachers continue to cook with their classes after we depart from the schools and they are modelling their lessons on what they learned in Project CHEF. Some schools have now developed Project CHEF supply bins that contain cooking equipment for the classes to use.  This year, some schools had school-wide harvest soup days, other classes created multicultural lunch and snack days to celebrate the cultural diversity in the classes. Two kindergarten/grade one classes created “restaurants” for family members to attend.
o   We have become a resource for information, equipment and recipes for schools that we cannot accommodate during the year and for teachers after we have departed from their schools.
o   In addition to the regular program, we taught two In Residence Programs.  Here, instead of teaching two classes for a one-week period, we resided at Bayview and Grenfell Elementary Schools and taught all grades, from kindergarten to grade seven. Project CHEF became part of the school culture and a resource for children, parents and teachers. The program goals became school goals and learning was integrated and extended throughout curriculum.
o   A scrapbook of our year in words and photos can be seen on our Facebook Project CHEF FB and Twitter Project_CHEF pages. Please scroll through to see the many highlights from the school year. There are also updates on our blog.
I have met with VSB to plan for the 2013 – 2014 school year.  There will not be a registration process for next school year as there are 19 schools on the waiting list from registration last September. The demand for the program far exceeds our present ability to deliver. After consultation with VSB, we have decided that the fairest way to deal with the demand for the program is to select schools by lottery with the schools that are not selected put on a waiting list for the following school year.  This process and new scheduling will take place in the fall once we have determined how much funding we have available.  In addition to Vancouver schools requesting the program, we continue to have many requests from other school districts, independent schools and community organizations, although we are not able to expand our reach beyond VSB at the present time.
As I reflect on the school year, to choose a single highlight is simple.  It was the day we celebrated good food with over 800 children.  In the morning, we celebrated the end of the Project CHEF In Residence Program at Bayview Elementary. Students shared poems, songs, a slide show and presentations as well as sharing cookies created by every child in the school. In the afternoon we moved into Grenfell Elementary to begin our residency and there we were greeted with the hallways filled with food related art and writing and 450 children celebrating good food with a musical about food. If we could bottle the energy and enthusiasm around food that was created that day, we could remedy our society’s disconnection with the food we eat. It was an overwhelming day that demonstrated the importance of food in our lives: nutritionally, socially, culturally, environmentally and emotionally.

Grade 7 student, Nova, has the last word on Project CHEF for this school year:  “Every school needs to give the gift of cooking to their students and Project CHEF is the perfect program. It shows students the values of healthy foods and why we should choose eating them instead of junk like chips and candy. It encourages kids to try new things and help cook food for their families. Project CHEF teaches the importance of safety in the kitchen and hands-on learning ensures that nobody is bored. I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in this program and I hope every student in Vancouver will get the chance to cook like a CHEF!”On behalf of the Project CHEF team, I wish you a sunny summer to enjoy BC’s bounty. Warmly,BarbBarb FinleyDirectorProject CHEF Education


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