By Steve Hubrecht
Students at J.A. Laird Elementary School are cooking up a storm, with help from the Columbia Valley Food Bank.
The Cooking Program is now in its third year, and has been a smash success, according to those involved.
Its been absolutely great and it grows every year, said J.A. Laird teacher Kyler Gauthier. The program is a great way to engage students in school and help to build a sense of community within our classrooms.
The program, which is funded by the local food bank, runs every Thursday and Friday and involves five students preparing a meal or snack and then serving it to their classmates. All classes in school participate, with different students cooking each time. Each student gets a chance to cook at least once every month.
The recipes chosen are always healthy choices and supervising staff attempt to present students with foods that may be new to them, such as quinoa, hummus, or honeydew melon, said Mr. Gauthier, adding the program helps students meet a number of educational and social goals.
Students develop life skills, such as budgeting and knowledge of how to prepare simple, but healthy meals. Socially, they have positive peer interactions while preparing food and share a sense of accomplishment as they provide others with the meal they have created, said Mr. Gauthier. Teachers and students agree that sharing a meal is a feel good moment for all and gives the class something to look forward to throughout the week. Were really grateful to the food bank for funding the program.
Its a great program. Education like that is really important and we (the food bank) are really impressed with how the program has turned out, its terrific, said Columbia Valley Food Bank chair Ron Stainthorpe.
The local food bank funds several healthy eating and other programs around the valley, as well as providing about 800 monthly food hampers for those in need.
Food Banks Canada (an umbrella organization for all food banks in the country) recently released this years edition of the annual Hunger Count survey, and Mr. Stainthorpe said the national trends it reveals are reflected here in the valley.
The survey was conducted in March by food banks across Canada, including the Columbia Valley, and the results were published a few weeks ago. The survey found that across the country the number of people using food banks each month has increased 25 per cent since 2008 to 870,000 this year (97,000 in British Columbia). Roughly a third of those people relying on food banks are children.
That does fit with what we see locally and it shows how hunger remains unacceptably high in Canada, said Mr. Stainthorpe, adding that here in the valley use of the food bank jumped following the 2008 and 2009 economic downturn and has remained at the same level since.
To see the full report, including its recommendations on how to reduce hunger in Canada, check out www.foodbankscanada.ca/hungercount.