In 2014 the Island Chefs Collaborative successfully brought the Growing Chefs! program to Vancouver Island. As a Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program, chef and community volunteers are paired with elementary school classrooms (grades 1-3 for the primary program, 4-6 for the intermediate) to give students hands-on experience growing and cooking their own food.

Over the course of three and a half months, several of our chefs visit local classrooms  every two weeks, helping the students plant and tend to indoor vegetable gardens. The chefs engage the students in games, lessons, and activities focusing on plant growth, local and urban agriculture, sustainability, and nutrition. The students harvest their vegetables, and the chefs teach them to cook delicious, healthy meals with what they have grown.

The ICC and Growing Chefs share common core values so we saw it as a natural fit. In 2014 the program was eagerly piloted at Vic West Elementary. The seven lesson template used in the program was readily accepted by both teacher and students. It was professional yet easy to use and understand and fit in perfectly with her curriculum in science around plant growth and change. 

“The students readily accepted the challenge to try at least one new veggie each week and they are eager to talk all about it when we go to see them. All of the students are actively engaged in our lessons and really look forward to us being there. I have to say, I kind of feel like a real life super hero when I put on my chefs jacket and step into the classroom. The kids faces light up and the excitement level is so awesome to see.” Andrew Paumier, ICC GrowingChefs! Program Lead.

Thanks to support from school districts, fundraising efforts through the ICC and many local businesses, we have been able to expand the reach of GrowingChefs! to include new classes each year. We have been able to see that children are really starting to connect with the concept of growing their own food. It is our hope that we can continue to offer this program, and to continue to offer GrowingChefs! to more schools and engage more children each year.

The program runs every year from March to June. To learn more about becoming a volunteer or getting the program into your classroom please contact us or go to www.growingchefs.ca. We look forward to working with you!!