Volunteer Roslyne Buchanan explains this new addition to both the volunteer and culinary scenes in Penticton.

Wide-eyed Grade 3 students skillfully chop fruit and vegetables to prepare nutritious and tasty dishes enjoyed in class using recipes simple enough to duplicate at home. Such are the practical benefits youngsters reap in Chefs in the Classroom – Edible Education (CIC). The program offers down-to-earth knowledge to identify nutritious foods, plant a garden, plan a healthy meal, and learn about local fruits, vegetables and cuisine.

Successfully launched in select Central Okanagan Grade 3 classrooms in April 2016, CIC expanded to Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School in Penticton. CIC is an initiative of the Okanagan Chefs Association (OCA), which is “a not-for-profit group of chefs, cooks, junior chefs and associates whose primary purpose is to network and promote culinary professionalism, provide mentorship and promote culinary education”.

OCA modeled CIC after popular edible education classes all over North America, however, overhauled the approach to make it Okanagan inspired, hands-on curriculum with links to our Indigenous community and practices. CIC engages an army of volunteers: In each school, there’s a core group comprised of four to seven individuals including a chef as team lead. (Penticton is fortunate to have Chef Paul Cecconi, BRODO Kitchen, as lead.) Volunteer skills vary from culinary and gardening to nutritional and communications. Teams are augmented by teachers, teacher’s aides, principals and other school resources.

Prelude to classes, OCA volunteers developed curriculum, tested recipes, adjusted course content based on experience in year one, sorted lesson plans into convenient binders and stocked tote bins with teaching aids. Planter boxes were purchased and assembled to accommodate the planting. Plus, resources to support the program are secured through fundraising, donations and corporate sponsors.

Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School joins Kelowna schools Anne McClymont, Bankhead, and Rutland Elementary; West Kelowna’s Glenrosa Elementary; Peachland Elementary; and Oyama Traditional School in Lake Country. Says CIC Committee Chair Debbie MacMillan, “The Okanagan Chefs Association is excited to welcome Penticton and we look forward to enhancing our Indigenous culinary connections and practices through the knowledge within Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School and its broader community.”

CIC is comprised of seven lessons over a nine-week period, April to June. Topics include: Planting a Garden; Nutrition; Fruits and Vegetables grown in the Okanagan; Why you should eat local foods; How to prepare easy recipes; Transplanting and Composting; and Connections between the food we grow today and the food grown in the past and present by local Indigenous people. Every session features hands-on activities, discussions, and materials for use in the classroom and at home. The program concludes with a field trip to a farm, lunch prepared by our volunteer teams and a graduation ceremony.

Track the action by following the social media tag #CICGrow.

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