Connecting Kids to Kitchens in the Okanagan

They cooked it. Tried it. And liked it! Children in grades 4–7 across the North Okanagan have a new appreciation for food and healthy choices after taking part in the “Cook it. Try it. Like it! ” program which was offered locally for the first time in 2015 by the Food Action Society.

Food Action Society of the North Okanagan (FASNO) is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve food security by cultivating a healthy, sustainable regional food system through education and community action.

Originally developed in Kamloops through a partnership with Interior Health, the city of Kamloops, SD 73 and Interior Community Services Society, the Cook it. Try it. Like it! program is receiving some rave reviews.

“Food skills, once commonly passed from generation to generation, are often lacking among youth today. Most children receive minimal food preparation instruction in school and may not spend time in the kitchen at home; there is a need to connect them with real food,” says Linda Boyd, board member, FASNO and Public Health Dietitian with Interior Health. 

The Canadian Community Health Survey shows that approximately 25% of calories people eat come from “other foods” not part of the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.  FASNO aims to shift the statistics by helping people gain access to good food and gain the skills needed to grow and prepare more of their own food.

It’s especially important to teach food skills to youth. The “Cook it. Try it. Like it! ” program reached approximately 170 children at schools and community centres in the Lumby, Vernon, Armstrong, and Enderby communities. Three of the locations in particular engaged children that came from food households with limited budgets, giving them resources and education they otherwise might not receive.

“These students were from some of our most at-risk families, and learning to eat properly is incredibly important for their growth. It was a great experience for our school. We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to offer this program in our community,” one Vernon School District Principal commented.

Throughout the five-week program, students practice hands-on food preparation and cooking skills, learning how to chop, measure, stir, and follow recipes; discover new foods they had never tried; learn about healthy food choices and food safety; where food comes from, and how to eat local; and share their new skills and menu items with their families. Of course, students are able to eat their healthy meal creations after making them, too.

“We hope that participation in the program will get kids in the kitchen more often, and will spark a life-long interest in cooking and seeking food that is produced locally and sustainably,” says Boyd.

To support the program in their local communities, Valley First and Enderby Financial were pleased to contribute with two community endowment grants of $7,574 (Valley First) and $2,070 (Enderby). This is the second year Valley First provided a grant to the program.

“Although the community endowment isn’t directly related to our Feed the Valley initiative, it’s another way for us to help ensure all families in the Valley are fed and have the resources they need to lead healthy lives, especially our youth,” says Wanda Villeneuve, Armstrong branch manager, Valley First.