The Overcast’s annual Albedo Grant gives a local, community-bettering endeavour a pot of cash to help them do their thing. The emphasis is on start-ups, or an organization facing a specific financial barrier to growth. This year’s pot was $12,500, courtesy of sponsors/ jurors Dean MacDonald, John O’Dea, and Phil Keeping’s family.
WHO IS THE SCHOOL LUNCH ASSOCIATION
The School Lunch Association is a registered charity whose mission is to operate a non-stigmatizing program that provides nutritious lunches for primary and elementary school children, regardless of a family’s financial situation.
They started 27 years ago, serving meals to children who otherwise would have gone without. Today they have kitchens in 25 schools, where meals are prepared fresh daily. Over 10,000 children have access to the program every day. “The School Lunch Association is constantly looking for ways to offer healthier and more local food to our school children,” said Executive Director, Ken Hopkins.
“The association has also discussed the possibility of offering food education to children. However, like most charities, our resources are very limited.”
Enter Amanda Bulman. Amanda is the fundraising coordinator for the School Lunch Association. She’s also a chef, who got her start at Reluctant Chef, and is now part of the trio behind Holy Grail Donut Pop-up. She was also the creator and coordinator of the very successful St. John’s Cookie Throwdown and is a Board member of Unpossible NL.
WHAT IS THEIR PLAN?
Amanda came up with the idea of the grant-winning concept, which was simple and clear: an afterschool culinary curriculum, where kids get hands-on experience learning to grow, harvest, and cook healthy foods. And, in Amanda’s words, to get excited about it.
“There are many current existing models on which to build a curriculum that makes sense for elementary age children,” says Bulman, citing programs like Growing Chefs Program, which has students grow and tend indoor gardens, as a way of teaching them about sustainability, nutrition, agriculture, and recipe creation. The kids will learn the full cycle from growing food, to preparing nutritious meals with those ingredients.
Volunteer chefs will visit classrooms, lending their skills for the betterment of the next generation, and since the chefs will be volunteers, the program will be very affordable for parents. “Learning to cook and garden are essential life skills,” Bulman says, “that do not get taught in school, and I want this program to be accessible to students from all economic backgrounds.”
A REMEDY FOR OUR DIRE HEALTH STATS, AND COUNTRY-LEADING HEALTHCARE COSTS?
You are what you eat, and Newfoundlanders eat poorly. The average Canadian eats nearly twice as many fruits and veggies than we do in Newfoundland (Stats Can, 2005).
A more 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. These stats translate into a grim reality: we do not live as long as our Canadian counterparts. The average NL man won’t live to be 76; female life expectancy averages 81.
Our poor health also comes at a cost to our government’s finances. Per capita healthcare spending in NL is higher than other provinces. A recent study by the Canadian Diabetes Association indicates there is no provincial strategy for curbing diabetes here, despite the fact the projected healthcare cost of diabetes will jump from $254 million to $322 million between 2010 and 2020.
Now that we’re foodie city, why not use all our expertise to get kids food conscious and food competent? Did you know rates of obesity in Canadian children have tripled since 1980? A far-reaching program like this – one that is educating the next generation on healthy eating – can only help correct all these grim realities.
PLANTING SEEDS FOR BETTER FOOD SECURITY?
Food security is another issue on our island – if cut off from the outside world, your neighbourhood’s Sobeys & Dominion would be without groceries on their shelves in under a week.
Yet the notion of growing our own food has never really taken root. In fact, to quote page 12 of this issue, “the agricultural sector is shrinking, even faster here than in the rest of the country. Our mean farmer age is 55!” Teaching kids to grow and harvest their own food can only help us combat food security in NL. As it stands, the average kid has no way of knowing where their food even comes from.
POSITIVE PARTNERSHIP POTENTIAL …
“The potential for building partnerships is unlimited,” Bulman says, referring to feelers she’s already put out to organizations as varied as Memorial University, MUN Botanical Garden, Friends of Pippy Park, and Mallard Cottage. The Restaurant Association of NL is another natural partner. Several local restaurants have in-house smokers, gardens, and animals that provide potential teaching opportunities.
HOW WILL THEY — USE THE $12,500 ALBEDO GRANT EXACTLY?
The grant money will be used to buy materials for a small test run of schools. It will pay for meetings between potential partners, and allow the School Lunch Association to host workshops held by professional gardeners to teach the program’s volunteers.
It will also pay for things like classroom gardening equipment, “safe cooking equipment that small hands can handle,” and seeds from local growers. “Ultimately, this funding will kickstart a program that will take us from discussion to execution.” says Bulman.