By Steve Hubrecht

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Local students had the opportunity to get their thumbs a bit greener and to get a tasty, healthy lunch as well last week during an event organized by the Groundswell Network Society.

Groundswell brought Edmonton whole food experts Sonya Buys and Paul Braconnier to the Columbia Valley on Thursday, June 15. The couple set up shop in the Mount Nelson Athletic Park (MNAP) community gardens. Throughout the day, classes of students from J.A. Laird Elementary School came over to the gardens, where Buys and Braconnier took them around the garden beds, teaching them the benefits of growing their own food, and then gave the kids a delicious ‘workshop’ by letting them cobble together a variety of wholesome ingredients in vegetable wraps.

The couple’s visit was part of Groundswell’s student gardener program which designates several beds in the community garden for Laird students. The program aims to have kids learn how to create a garden, from planning and planting right up to harvesting, freezing and canning.

“The idea is to get kids to get their families to eat healthier,” Groundswell member Barbara Thrasher told the Pioneer. 

Buys and Braconnier were both energy industry executives before retiring several years ago and devoting their lives to other pursuits. Buys became ill and was inspired by that to do nutritionist training. That grew into attending the Rouxbe School of Plant Based Nutrition, and then eventually she did formal chef training.

The couple now spend their time teaching others about the importance of healthy eating.

“Food is our fuel. And, of course, we want to put the best possible fuel into our bodies for the best possible performance,” Buys told the Pioneer. “It’s been a great day. The kids are engaged, knowledgeable and highly participatory. I’m delighted with how it’s turned out . . . the teachers (at Laird) and Groundswell are really doing something special for the kids with the gardening program. It’s great.”