Archive for March, 2011
Just Call Us Volunteers coordinates all of the volunteer chefs and sous chefs for the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s teaching kitchen. We invite guest chefs and sous chefs to donate their time on weekday mornings to teach easy-to-make recipes that they create that incorporate ingredients from the property’s gardens. Watch this video to see what it’s like to teach at Olivewood Gardens. Click here for more on how you can become a guest chef.
Just Call Us Volunteers gives willing volunteers of all skill levels the opportunity to cook in a professional kitchen and then serve those same delicious meals to San Diego’s homeless. We are always looking for chefs and culinary students to get involved, but the best part is that no experience is required to volunteer with us. We have experienced chefs to help you get started. Serving the homeless is just one of the ways to volunteer. Watch this video to see a few of the things our volunteers get to do. Click here to see our next volunteer opportunity to feed the homeless.
I’m sure there are a multitude of ways one could go about starting a chef and school volunteer program. Be creative and let this taste of information help stir your imagination as to what would work best in your community.
My path began by accident. I attended a lecture given by Ann Cooper, The Renegade Lunch Lady. She reforms school lunch programs and during the Q&A someone asked How do chefs get involved? 4 women jumped up & said talk to us. These women were from Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center. The property had been donated to the non profit. It is a 7 acre urban farm property. They had been stumbling trying to start a farm to table cooking program. They mostly needed chefs.
Chefs for me that was easy! I know chefs. So within 10 days I had chefs coming to Olivewood Gardens. The National City School District had 4th, 5th & 6th graders already visiting the gardens. We added hands on healthy cooking classes with the produce the kids planted and harvested.
That was 1 year ago. In that first year we had 75 chefs volunteer to teach and 5000 kids visit Olivewood.
I was asked in June 2010 to attend The First Lady’s Launch of Chef’s Move to Schools. Since then www.letsmove.org has launched and there are resources for you there as well.
So my path was easy. The farm was waiting for us.
For those of you wanting to create a program from scratch I can offer this up. Don’t give up, try another day try another way. Remember the schools are already over tasked and find it difficult to accomplish their already long to do lists so make it easy for them and be patient if they don’t jump on your bandwagon right away.
If you are a Chef:
Start with your kid’s school or talk to friends who have children in school. Talk to schools (easier said than done) I recommend personal visits with the principal. If possible start with a smaller school district. If you know any teachers offer your help to them! Offer to come to their classroom to reinforce:
Math with Food:
Measuring, dividing recipes multiplying. Make salad dressing and bring greens for a salad for them to eat.
History with Food:
Take their history lesson and bring in fruits and veggies from that region and time period. Maybe prepare a dish for the children to share and talk all about it.
Science with Food:
Frankly I have NO idea what I’d teach.
Fun with Food:
Use fruits and vegetables to create art projects, slice oranges in ½ and use ink to make prints, make Mr. Potato heads…get creative here. Use ½ for the art the other half eat.
As a chef you can offer kitchen tours and field trips to a school near you. Always include a healthy snack and some info about why fruits and vegetables are important. If possible have the kids help you tear the lettuce or grate a carrot…easy things like that.
If you are a Teacher or a School Administrator:
Contact The Slow Food Org. in your area. Ask for their assistance in identifying chefs who would be a good fit. Call the chef and don’t take it personally if they don’t return your call. They are as busy as you are. Go to their restaurant NOT during peak meal times….2 in the afternoon is a pretty good time or have drinks or dinner and ask the chef to come out again NOT during peak meal times. See if they are interested and ask if they know anyone else who might want to participate. From there the two of you get to design the program you want that works for your situation and the chef’s schedule.
It’s always great if the chef can attend several whole school assemblies to be introduced and to say a few words about why he/she is there. Even better if there is a family day or night and the chef can do a healthy snack demo with samples for everyone. The more the kids seem the chef in uniform the better.
Most importantly, I say start small and work your way up. Notice we haven’t gone near the cafeteria. I think on every visit by the chef if he/she pops her head into the kitchen to say hello then, after a year or 2 of solid partnering with a principal/ teacher/classroom you can start broaching the subject of getting the cafeteria staff involved…or not depending on the particulars of the school.
Start a school Garden:
Enlist a Master Gardener form your community or a professional in the field. What I see happen over and over is the parent or teacher who begins the garden moves on and the plot lays fallow. Make sure you have someone who is willing to tend the garden during holidays and vacations. Ask your chef what he’d like to see in the garden then the kids can harvest and the chef can prepare it.
No Matter how you go about it try to make the food portion kid friendly hands on and always send the children home with a recipe.
We always begin each cooking class with
Chef Julie’s “No Thank You Rule”
To always and everywhere
Take 1 BIG bite
Before I say no Thank you
I really really really mean it”
The one exception is with food allergies.