Why Project CHEF?
Traditionally, children learned about healthy food choices and cooking from family
members and the social and cultural aspects related to food were learned at the table in the context of a family meal. Times have changed and in our fast-paced lives this knowledge and the associated skills are often not being transferred to the younger generation. Meals consisting of nutritionally lacking, highly processed foods are eaten on the run and rarely around a dinner table.
Recent studies on children’s eating practices and current state of health coupled with the alarming projections for the future indicate a dire need to re-educate children and families about life-long healthy eating.
Since studies indicate that children’s eating habits are formed by the time they are twelve years old, it is imperative that we educate children and expose them to healthy, whole foods at an early age. Experiential learning is one of the most powerful ways to learn and studies have shown that children who have had a hands-on opportunity to explore and prepare new and nutritious foods will be more likely to eat healthy foods. Hands- on cooking programs have been proven to influence children and help them develop the skills to encourage healthy eating throughout their lives, improve their diets and prevent obesity.
Project CHEF is a non-profit program that partners with Vancouver School Board to teach children about wholesome food. The Project CHEF program began implementation in the winter of 2008. At the conclusion of the 2012 – 2013 school year, the program has reached approximately 7000 children from Vancouver schools and directly involved over 3700 parent and community volunteers.
To teach children the knowledge and skills necessary to make healthy food choices and enable them to make wholesome, nutritious meals for themselves so that they may lead healthy lives.
The children will:
1. Gain knowledge and skills necessary to make informed choices about the food they eat.
2. Develop skill and confidence in making culturally diverse, nutritious meals that comply with Canada’s Food Guide.
3. Apply principles of safety in the kitchen with regard to personal and kitchen cleanliness, food safety and safety using kitchen equipment and utensils.
4. Participate in the pleasures of shared meals at a table and become aware of social and
cultural behaviors associated with meal service.
5. Work cooperatively with their peers, school staff, parents and community in promoting and enjoying healthy food choices.
6. Using environmentally sensitive food practices by using local foods, or food sourced from as close to home as possible, recycling refuse, composting and use real dishes and cutlery.
Project CHEF Creator
The Project CHEF program was created by teacher and chef, Barb Finley. An educator (B.Ed., M.Ed.) for over twenty-five years, Barb has taught in Langley & Vancouver School Districts, UBC Faculty of Education, Dubrulle Culinary Institute and the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. Through her work, her mission is to reconnect children with the food they eat and to help children discover the process and pleasure in cooking and sharing food together.
- Project CHEF platoons into a school for a one week period to teach four or five lessons to students from kindergarten to grade seven.
- The program is designed to support student learning outcomes from B.C. Ministry of Education Integrated Resource Packages.
- The program focuses on teaching children knowledge, skills and attitudes
to promote healthy cooking and eating and emphasizes the development of
cooperative learning skills.
- The program can be run in any classroom with a sink and easy access to a fridge. Seven cook stations are set up in the room each consisting of a cook-top, electric frying pan and a bin of small wares.
- Classes are two and a half hours in length which allows time for the entire cooking process, from preparation to clean up.
- The lesson structure includes a lesson and demonstration taught by the chef-teacher followed by hands-on cooking in six small groups, supervised by the chef-teacher, classroom teacher, assistants, parent volunteers and volunteers from the community.
- The children cook culturally diverse recipes using fresh, non processed food that incorporates a variety of cooking skills, food-related knowledge and that are consistent with Health Canada’s Canada’s Food Guide. The group then sits down to enjoy the pleasures of sharing food around a table.
- Two classes (approximately sixty children) are taught each day for four or five consecutive days and then the equipment is packed up and the program is ready to move to another school.
- Project CHEF In Residence Program expands on the regular Project CHEF program by remaining in a school for a longer period of time and teaching children from kindergarten to grade seven. Healthy eating becomes a school focus and the goals of the program are integrated through class lessons and school activities.