EDIT: View the review of the event here, or read below:
Say Yes! To Think and Eat Green at School
Story by Ellen Pitt
Ryerson welcomed two leading advocates of sustainable nutrition from Vancouver last week, as part of a discussion about food production and consumption in schools.
On April 28, FoodShare Toronto, Ryerson’s Food Issues Group, and the Center for Studies in Food Security hosted Say Yes! To Think and Eat Green at School. The event was part of FoodShare’s Say Yes! campaign, which aims to share food education stories, experiences and practices.
“Alejandro and Elena are not only thinkers, but they are doers,” Mustafa Koc said in his introduction of the speakers. Alejandro Rojas is the Principal Investigator of Think and Eat Green at School, and an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Elena Orrego is the Project Manager of Think and Eat Green at School.
According to their website, Think and Eat Green at School helps to “build healthy and sustainable school food systems by facilitating a community of learners in action research in Vancouver, BC, Canada.” Since 2009, the organization has connected with over 1,600 students in over 170 classrooms.
Rojas spoke about the environmental issues related to food production, and the reality that we live in an imbalanced society where some people are overfed, and some underfed. Think and Eat Green at School ties food, health and the environment together, and works to share and integrate knowledge. Rojas said that having expert knowledge of things like food systems is irrelevant if that knowledge is not used in the community. “We are learning things and doing things that we would not do separately,” he said.
Orrego talked about the growing interest in school gardens and some of the changes they have seen since starting Think and Eat Green at School. She said many teachers were unsure about the project at first, expressing concerns that gardening with the children would only create extra work. They soon discover the opposite—children are so involved and interested in gardening, they become more focused, and hands on learning provides ample opportunity for integrating various aspects of the curriculum.
Orrego said the only thing Think and Eat Green asks of the participating schools is that they provide photos, and 850 words about what they intend to do with the project, and what they did. She said they have received very positive feedback, and many photos.
Rojas said that seeing the green movement in Toronto has been inspirational for them, adding, “we are all partners in this.”
The event also highlighted some of the school food programs in Toronto, including the Imagine a Garden in Every School campaign. Sunday Harrison, Program Director of Green Thumbs Growing Kids, spoke about the initiative, emphasizing the value gardens provide by promoting healthy eating and hands-on learning. She said Imagine a Garden in Every School first asks what schools need in order to have gardens, and then try to determine how they can make that happen.
Harrison also touched on the issues around creating school gardens, such as neglect during the summer holidays, and the reality that school gardens do not always fit into the curriculum. She said they “need the education system to embrace what we’re doing and work as partners.”
Chef Joshna Maharaj discussed some of her experiences on the side of of preparing and consuming fresh, healthy food. Maharaj is the Assistant Director of Food Services and Executive Chef at Ryerson University, and has led the introduction of healthy and fresh food into the Ryerson community since she joined the administration almost one year ago. She emphasized the potential that institutions have as agents of change, and how we can leverage the power of institutions to change how we approach food.
Maharaj has taken a very different approach to food preparation in an institutional setting. She talked about some of the challenges they have faced during the change, giving the example of soup preparation. For years, kitchen staff were told not to touch the food they prepared— the expectation was that they would open a bag of soup, put it in the pot, and heat it. Now, they are relearning to physically prepare the food, create soups from scratch, chop vegetables and allow time for the soup to simmer. Besides the difference in time required to prepare the food, the staff have also had to unlearn years of reheating routines and remote food preparation. Maharaj said that they have seen a change in how the staff feel about their job, and about themselves. “They can’t believe their work environment now,” she said. “In an environment where the beauty of food has been picked out, you can put it back in and watch it grow.”
SAY YES! TO THINK & EAT GREEN AT SCHOOL – If you are in the Toronto area in the upcoming week, join FoodShare Toronto in hosting TEGS Principal Investigator Dr. Alejandro Rojas and Project Manager Elena Orrego.
Join FoodShare Toronto and Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security as we host Dr. Alejandro Rojas and Elena Orrego from Vancouver’s Think & Eat Green at School initiative. Think & Eat Green at School builds healthy and sustainable school food systems by facilitating a community of learners in action research in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
This two hour session will provide an overview of Think and Eat Green at School’s dynamic research and collaboration to support healthy and sustainable food systems at schools.
It will also provide an overview of some of the exciting school food programs happening here in Toronto and FoodShare’s new Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools campaign.
We hope you can make it!
Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
|Monday, April 28, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM (PDT)Ryerson University
350 Victoria St
Room to be announced
Toronto, ON M5B 2K3
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