The Overcast’s $12,500 Albedo Grant is available for entrepreneurs, organizations, or artists looking to kickstart a dreamjob or launch their operation to new heights. This year’s deadline in June 12th at 5, click here for more details.

Last year’s winner was a simple, clever, and vital idea, of benefit to the future of Newfoundland & Labrador: our children. The $12,500 went to Amanda Bulman’s idea for a School Lunch Association “After School Culinary Program.” Now known as Yes, Chef!, what started out as an after school program became part of the regular school curriculum for elementary school kids at Hazelwood Elementary!

Yes, Chef! teaches these young students about food systems and cooking. “Every Wednesday,” Bulman says, “I work with over eighty grade four/five students. We make a recipe each week and I bring in guests who work in local food systems.”

So far, the kids have met local farmers, chefs from Mallard Cottage and Reluctant Chef, dieticians, and Chelsea Foley from Agriculture in the Classroom. Bulman says, “The kids have learned about  seeds, vegetables, fruits, farming, procedural writing, healthy living, but mostly we focus on having fun and getting creative with food. By far, the most popular day was when we made seaweed salad from locally foraged seaweeds.”

There does still remain an after school program as well. Yes, Chef! offers free cooking classes at the Blackmarsh Dominion twice a month for kids attending Hazelwood. “During our last class we made black bean salsa, red pepper hummus, homemade crackers, corn fritters, and raspberry sorbet with honey.”

In recent months, Bulman has also worked closely with Agriculture in the Classroom and visited with the grade threes at St. Matthews school. “We’ve made recipes based on the foods that they are currently growing in their little green thumbs classrooms. We’ve done kale pesto, salsas, etc. It’s awesome to see the kids getting involved and excited about growing and cooking food.”

Yes, Chef is still evolving as an idea and concept, she says, “but it feels great to see cooking and creativity in schools.”

Giving kids a hands-on experience learning to grow, harvest, and cook healthy foods, and in Amanda’s words, to get them excited about it, is an amazing contribution to our community and the next generation of Newfoundlanders, especially given all the grim stats around unhealthy eating in our province (the average Canadian eats nearly twice as many fruits and veggies than we do in Newfoundland!)

As well, a recent Stats Can study revealed that rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes have increased, while consumption of healthy foods has gone down between 2003 and 2013. Our poor health comes at a cost to our government’s finances. Per capita healthcare spending in NL is higher than other provinces.

Yes Chef will do wonders to better our relationship with food, and that’s just as good for our health as it is for our province’s bottom line. Now that we’re a foodie city, it’s great to see programs like Yes, Chef! use all our expertise to get kids food conscious and food competent.

The program is also planting seeds for better food security on our island – if cut off from the outside world, your neighbourhood Sobeys & Dominion would be without groceries on their shelves in under a week, so it’s great to see kids learning where their food comes from and how to grow and harvest their own!