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Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots adapt LunchLAB program in response to COVID-19.

LunchLAB, our innovative pilot that could, evolved this past month to meet the current needs of families impacted by the pandemic. Those of us in the local farm and food world already informally work together and share common goals, so teamwork is not new for Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots. We’ve been in cahoots for a couple of years now. In the fall 2019, we launched LunchLAB, a curriculum-based educational school meal program.

LunchLAB provides a space for students learn to grow their own food and, with the support of their teacher and chef-in-residence, learn to cook for themselves and hundreds of their peers twice a week. Through LunchLAB, we provide meals that:

  • strengthen local food systems and support local farms;
  • provide non-stigmatizing access to those that need it most;
  • are nourishing, safe, healthy, and delicious;
  • kids and youth want to eat.

 

With the closure of schools due to COVID-19,  Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Centre, Ono Vancouver, and the Vancouver School Board (vsb), redesigned LunchLAB to become LunchLAB: Chefs for Families. This new program provides healthy, delicious, chef-prepared meals to families in need.

Times can be tough for Vancouver families right now, and even tougher for those families who may have already been struggling. We are offering families, identified by Youth and Family Workers at the VSB, healthy, chef-prepared meals that provide nourishment and dignity at this uncertain time. Both Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots believe food can be a catalyst for positive change and a source of joy and inspiration, even during a crisis.

Before, LunchLAB was serving up to 440 lunches per week. Now, we’re at 5,500 meals! That’s more than a 1000% increase! These meals are made available for pick up or delivery two days a week to 260 local families. Created by professional chefs and composed of restaurant-quality dishes, the menus are carefully and thoughtfully crafted to bring comfort and enjoyment.

And they’re not just healthy, they’re absolutely delicious, and kid-approved!

Plus, we’re happy to be able to provide meaningful, paid work for chefs and kitchen professionals who would otherwise not be working. Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots is currently providing more than 180 hrs/week of employment for our chef teams from Ono Vancouver and the Italian Cultural Centre. A huge THANK YOU to both the Italian Cultural Centre and Pacific Restaurant Supply who have donated the use of their kitchen facilities and equipment for the chef teams to prepare and portion the meals. AMAZING!

It’s also super-important to us that we support the entire food system, including local sourcing and diversion of food waste. Thanks for working with us and thank you for your donations Cropthorne Farm, Discovery Organics, Gordon Food Service, Nature’s Path, and Yen Bros Food Service. And we just have to give a shout out to our very own Fresh Roots schoolyard farms and farmers for contributing ultra-locally grown produce like carrots (carrot-top parsley anyone?!), parsley and greens.

And it’s not just food that the community is contributing. Fresh Prep generously donated cold packs for safe delivery of the meals, Fresh St Market donated paper bags for packing meals, Lyft has donated free rides for families to pick up meals, and Odd Society Spirits donated hand sanitizer for our volunteer delivery drivers. THANK YOU!

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Program activities would not be possible without our volunteers. If you can spare some time, or would like more information about volunteer opportunities email Amanda Adams: amanda@growingchefs.ca.

We are aware that not everyone is in a place to make a donation right now, and we understand.  If you or your employer are able to support, we hope you’ll Order Up* a chef-prepared meal for a family in need with a donation today! Each time you place an order, you provide fresh, healthy, restaurant-quality meals, salad making kits, fresh produce, and pantry staples to local families in need, RIGHT NOW.

* LunchLAB: Chefs for Families is a partnership. Contact and donation information will be shared with both charities, Growing Chefs! and Fresh Roots.

The cost to operate LunchLAB: Chefs for Families is $77,000 per month and donations are required to continue operation.

Financially Supported By:

Participating Collaborators: 

  • Italian Cultural Centreprovides LunchLAB with:
    • In-kind use of their entire facility and equipment to prepare, portion, and distribute the meals
    • Leadership, expertise and culinary talent from their Executive Chef Jackson Noah, their chefs, staff, and catering division
    • Community connections and supplier connections for in-kind support and donated food/fresh produce.
  • Ono Vancouverprovides LunchLAB with:
    • Support developing the new LunchLAB program concept, model, scale, and operations
    • Leadership, expertise, and culinary talent from Executive Chef TJ Conwi, one of the LunchLAB chef-in-residences, and his team of chefs
    • Community connections and supplier connections for in-kind support and donated food/fresh produce.
  • Vancouver School Boardprovides LunchLab with:
    • The list of participating families. Each week, the Manager of Enhanced Services and Youth and Family Workers from across the VSB sign up families they feel will best benefit from participating in the meal program.

Program Contacts:

  • Helen Stortini | Executive Director, Growing Chefs!

helen@growingchefs.ca| 778-858-0909

  • Alexa Pitoulis | Interim Executive Director, Fresh Roots

alexa@freshroots.ca| 778-764-0DIG (0344), ext. 101

Communications/Fundraising Contacts:

  • Jaydeen Williams | Development & Communications Director, Growing Chefs!

jaydeen@growingchefs.ca| 604-710-1677

  • Caroline Manuel | Communications and Engagement Manager, Fresh Roots

caroline@freshroots.ca| 778-764-0DIG (0344), ext. 108

#LunchLAB #ChefsForFamilies #OrderUp #GrowingChefs #FreshRoots

 

 

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