Project CHEF Education Society is a not-for-profit society that offers experiential programs to teach children and families about healthy cooking and eating. Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food is a curriculum-based school program aimed at children in kindergarten to grade seven. This award-winning program teaches students about healthy food: where it comes from, what it tastes like, how to prepare it and how to enjoy sharing it around a table. Designed to immerse children in the process of cooking from preparation to clean-up, children gain knowledge about food; they discover the pleasure and satisfaction in creating meals for themselves and they develop the skills so that they can apply their new-found knowledge and abilities in making healthy food choices at home.
Why is the Project CHEF program necessary?
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.
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:
- Gain knowledge and skills necessary to make informed choices about the food they eat.
- Develop skill and confidence in making culturally diverse, nutritious meals that comply with Canada’s Food Guide.
- Apply principles of safety in the kitchen with regard to personal and kitchen cleanliness, food safety and safety using kitchen equipment and utensils.
- Participate in the pleasures of shared meals at a table and become aware of social and cultural behaviours associated with meal service.
- Work cooperatively with their peers, school staff, parents and community in promoting and enjoying healthy food choices.
- Use environmentally sensitive food practices by using local foods, or food sourced from as close to home as possible, recycling refuse, composting, and using real dishes and cutlery.
Project CHEF Program Summary:
- Project CHEF platoons into a school for a one-week period or a multi-week period to teach five lessons to students in kindergarten to grade seven.
- The program is designed to support student learning outcomes from B.C. Ministry of Education curricula.
- 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.
- The lesson structure includes a lesson and demonstration taught by the chef-teacher followed by handson cooking in six small groups, supervised by the chef-teacher, classroom teacher, chef-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 and 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 five consecutive days. At the end of the program, the equipment is packed up and the program is ready to move to another school.
- In addition to our One-week Program, we offer In Residence Programs, ASAP Program (After School Action Program) for vulnerable children, Intergenerational Program at Tapestry, and Spring Break and Summer Camps.
Project CHEF Implementation Plan:
Project CHEF was initiated in 2007 and thus far has taught over 12,600 children about healthy food choices and how to prepare the food for themselves. The program has visited 620 Vancouver elementary classrooms and involved over 840 teachers, 6500 parent and community volunteers.
During the 2016 – 2017 school year we are implementing a thirty-two week program, commencing October, 2016 and concluding June, 2017.
Project CHEF Evaluation:
Since the beginning of Project CHEF, evaluative data has been collected from all program participants, including children, teachers, administrators and parents. The evaluative data has been overwhelmingly positive with 100% of teachers and principals rating the program as excellent. The average rating from parent volunteers is 4.94 out of 5 and the average rating from the children is 4.66 out of 5. Anecdotal data and post program feedback from parents and teachers shows that the Project CHEF program has made a very strong impact on children, noting positive changes in children’s knowledge about food, their skills in creating food for themselves and their families, and attitudes toward food. A school principal succinctly summarized the program, “Project CHEF is the best kind of educational experience; it changes lives.”
Project CHEF has been recognized with several awards. In 2017 we will be awarded the Governor General of Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal. In 2016 we received the Maple Leaf Foods Feed it Forward Award, and the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals Community Leadership Award. In 2013 Project CHEF received the BC School Superintendents Association Award of Recognition for its leadership and contributions to enhance public education.
Project CHEF Supporters:
Project CHEF is privately funded and the implementation of this program would not be possible without donations from our supporters. Thank you WorkSafeBC, Seedlings Foundation, Gourmet Warehouse, Les Dames d’Escoffier, B.C. Chapter, B.C. Dairy Association, Anthem Properties Group, MCentred, Fasken Martineau, Vancouver Foundation, Choices Markets, Tides Canada Foundation, CIBC Wood Gundy, Bishop’s Restaurant, Chefs’ Table Society of BC and private donors. Project CHEF is also very grateful for in-kind program contributions donated by the Vancouver School Board, Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Fresh Direct Produce Ltd., Sunrise Soya Foods, BC Dairy Foundation, Rancho Vignola, Hendrix Equipment, Pomme Natural Market, Ming Wo and BC Blueberry Council.
Donations to support Project CHEF can be made to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) and designated as funding for Project CHEF. Tax receipts can be issued by the GVFB for donations. All designated funding will be used specifically for the Project CHEF program.
For more information regarding Project CHEF please contact: