Wilberforce students feast on cooking lessons
By Sue Tiffin
Published May 15, 2018
The kitchen in the Lloyd Watson Community Centre was a feast for the senses on May 8.
Filled with Wilberforce Elementary School Grade 8 students and the Community Cooks, a volunteer committee of the Central Food Network, it was bustling with activity as part of the Let’s Cook program, sponsored by the CFN and Highlands East Food Hub.
Students and volunteers were laughing together, manoeuvring around the kitchen to work on individual tasks that would result in a meal of quinoa chili and brownies they could enjoy together. As those recipes came together and were cooking on the stove, or baking in the oven, the kitchen filled with the warm aroma of lunch that surely tasted as good as it smelled.
It was also filled with enthusiasm.
The students said they appreciated eating the food, of course, and also having the opportunity to learn how to cook more. In the bi-weekly classes, they’ve learned how time-consuming it can be to prepare dinner, and the value of organizing meals, how to use a knife, how to properly wash their hands, and how to not waste in the kitchen.
They worked together to figure out how to troubleshoot – like when more vanilla than was anticipated poured from the bottle. In a discussion about graduation party appetizers and finger foods – the final project they’ll create as part of the seven-session course – they excitedly called out suggestions as to what they’ll learn how to make.
The adults in the room are pleased as punch that the program is going so well. Barb Davies, vice-principal of Wilberforce Elementary School, talked about how the curriculum was organized, and is delighted by the attention to detail – at the end of each session, students take home the recipe they made, and the ingredients they need to make it at home, too.
“It’s an excellent school and community partnership,” said Davies. “They’re learning valuable skills, plus developing relationships with community members.”
As some of the volunteers helping with the program are retired teachers, they were able to talk to the kids about skills they’ve acquired, and how to include them on a resume.
Classes have themes, such as Using Up Leftovers, and Healthy Appetizers. The class theme was No Meat, No Problem on May 8 – some students had to find out what quinoa was as they were putting the vegetarian chili together.
“The kids are engaged and they’re tasting things they’ve never tried before,” said volunteer Carol Greenwood, who is leading the Let’s Cook program. “They seem to be enjoying themselves, so it’s all pulling together.”
Greenwood said she hopes the program helps students develop the skills they need to make healthy, economical choices, and that it encourages community involvement in learning about food security.