You’re The Chef Program Kicks Off In OntarioFri 19 Aug 2011
Story by Tina Martin
As a parent volunteer at my daughter’s elementary school, I see kids come to school with the most unappealing lunches! I wanted to bring more colour to the kids’ lunchboxes so I've started a cooking program called “You're the Chef” to teach kids how to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
You’re the Chef is a local Health Department’s Healthy School initiative for Grade 7 and 8 students. I completed a one-day safe food handling course and received a binder with Canada’s Food Guide, recipes and safe food handling tips.
You’re the Chef meets after school in the school’s staff lunchroom for two hours, once a week, for four weeks. Each week we sample unusual fruits and vegetables and play guessing games to see if anyone can name them. Persimmons and star fruit are favourites. The kids encourage each other to try the really unusual stuff–prickly pears really are prickly!
My 10 year old daughter is my sous chef. Rachel is well-versed in the kitchen and needs very little supervision; she's a natural at cooking demos! Rachel prepares apple pumpkin muffins or baked apples with cranberries while the older kids watch. The older kids know that if a 10-year old can do it, they can do it, too!
Next, I demonstrate our menu for the day: vegetable stir fry with noodles; chick pea curry with rice and pappadams; vegetable soup and bean salad with citrus vinaigrette, mixed green salad and tomato, basil and bocconcini salad; or scrambled egg roll ups with tomato and pepper salsa in a tortilla.
The kids break out into four groups and prepare the menu with adult supervision at their food stations. They wash and cut the ingredients and use a single burner hot plate and stir fry pan for cooking. When they're done preparing, we push the tables together and eat the food they’ve prepared and Rachel’s dessert.
It’s great to see how the program is influencing the students that are taking part -my favourite comment comes from 13-year old Candace: "I've never had a red pepper or a stir fry before, but now I really like them!" Candace's mom stopped me one day to thank me for running the program; her daughter is trying fruits and vegetables that she'd never tried previously.
Additionally, Thirteen year old Max likes to make the scrambled egg roll ups for his family for dinner. He’s an athlete and really enjoys the energy he gets from eggs and salsa before his practice sessions!
Our program is financially supported by our Parents’ School Council. We made a modest investment of approximately $300 in cooking equipment: electric hot plate, non-stick frying pan, spatula, large mixing bowl, cutting board and knife for each of four cooking stations and we share a box grater, measuring cups and vegetable peeler. Our ongoing costs are approximately $100 for the four-week program for food ingredients and recyclable paper plates and forks.
Although our school year has come to a close, the kids are already asking if we’ll be running You’re the Chef next year!
About the author: Tina Martin is from Markham, Ontario Canada, as a parent volunteer at her daughter Rachel’s elementary school Tina started the ‘You’re the Chef’ program in order to teach children how to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.
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