A Recipe for a Happy Holiday


Local food-focused charities partner with chefs and local businesses to support edible education this holiday season

Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots Farms have written the recipe for a happy holiday

  • Start with two local food-focused charities (Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots)

  • Engage three talented local chefs (Chefs Robert Clark, Tasha Sawyer, TJ Conwi)

  • Add generous philanthropists (Willow Grove Foundation and more)

  • Throw in a boatload of sustainable seafood (Organic Ocean)

  • Mix with 345 spatulas and ladles (House of Knives)

  • Finish with a cup of creativity, a teaspoon of generosity, and a pinch of love.

Chef Tasha Sawyer
Photo Credit: Mavreen David Photography

LunchLAB is a collaborative project between two local charities, Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots. In LunchLAB, students learn to grow their own food, supplement that food from local farms, and with the support of their teacher and chef-in-residence, learn to cook for themselves and their peers. This week, hundreds of children will go home with one of their favourite LunchLAB dishes and a special gift to help them keep cooking at home.

“We are not able to be in schools right now and our LunchLAB chefs and team miss spending time with the LunchLAB students,” said Amanda Adams, Growing Chefs’ Program Director. “We wanted to let them know that we are thinking of them this holiday season. We can’t wait to be in the kitchen with them again.”

At Total Education High School, 45 students who regularly would be a part of our LunchLAB program are receiving a pasta meal kit with ingredients and instructions so they can practice their cooking skills at home by creating a nutritious meal for their family, all created by Chef Tasha Sawyer. Additionally, Chef TJ Conwi has bottled up the kids’ favourite salad dressing from the salad bar for 300 LunchLAB students at Lord Roberts Elementary School. They will also receive the recipe for this healthy dressing so they can teach their caregivers how to make it at home. All students will also receive a special gift from our friends at House of Knives to help them keep cooking.

Additionally, 80 local families in need will receive a generous gift of healthy, sustainable seafood (frozen shrimp and salmon, and canned tuna) from Organic Ocean, made possible by a donation from the Willow Grove Foundation. These families will also receive a recipe and cooking tips by Chef Robert Clark, recently appointed to the Order of Canada in November 2020 for establishing a world-renowned program to help businesses and customers identify and purchase sustainable seafood.

Seafood hampers will be distributed to families by Vancouver Coastal Health’s Leadership and Resilience program team and Vancouver Technical Secondary School. These are many of the same families that were provided with weekly meals earlier in the pandemic through our LunchLAB pivot, Chefs for Families.

“We are incredibly grateful for such a seamless collaboration between organizations and blown away by the number of people reaching out to volunteer their time and donate food, space, services, products and money. The resilience and support from our community is truly inspiring,” says Alexa Pitoulis, Executive Director of Fresh Roots.

About LunchLAB
Both Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots believe food can be a catalyst for positive change and a source of joy and inspiration, even during challenging times. LunchLAB is a collaborative project between two local charities, Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots. In LunchLAB, elementary and high school students learn to grow their own food, supplement that food from local farms, and with the support of their teacher and chef-in-residence, learn to cook for themselves and their peers.

About House of Knives
House of Knives’ vision is a simple one: to improve the quality of life of all those they encounter through education and innovation. Their goal is to match our customers with quality and functional tools and to educate them on how to use and maintain their tools. To achieve this, they strive to create an inclusive atmosphere within each of their stores where customers who appreciate quality feel comfortable entering and inquiring about their products and services. If customers’ needs are not obvious, they listen openly, and without prejudice or bias, to help them determine what their needs are and how to fulfill them. House of Knives aims to have their customers view them not only as a destination where one can purchase fine quality tools and functional gifts, but as a resource for the service, knowledge, and education required to use and maintain their investments.

About Organic Ocean
Organic Ocean was established by fishers who recognized that sustainable livelihoods rely upon sustainable fisheries. Driven by the growing demand for responsibly sourced seafood, Organic Ocean has evolved into a community of seafood producers — traditional, modern, and indigenous — all dedicated to the ecosystem and social stewardship. The top chefs were the first to recognize that by making choices for the good of our oceans, they were also being provided the finest ingredients. Now Organic Ocean fish and shellfish is also available for contactless, door to door delivery to the home or office. Organic Ocean is a Certified B Corporation and a member of 1% for the Planet and was named one of the Top 25 Sustainability-minded Seafood Suppliers That Have Transformed The North American Industry.


Donation Websites:

Photo and interview opportunities available.
Download High-Resolution Images Here:

Media Contacts:
Jaydeen Williams – Co-Interim Executive Director at Growing Chefs

Caroline Manuel – Communications and Engagement Manager at Fresh Roots
778-764-0DIG (0344), ext. 108

Program Contacts:
Amanda Adams – Program Director at Growing Chefs

Alexa Pitoulis – Executive Director at Fresh Roots 
778-764-0DIG (0344), ext. 101


COVID-19: Food educators, chefs pumping out thousands of meals for people in need

Randy Shore

There is no shortage of hungry people to feed in a city hobbled by the COVID-19 lockdown and that has spawned a massive network of people working for the common good.

LunchLAB launched last year to show kids how to grow and prepare food and by spring break more than 40 students had rotated through their cook’s training program, feeding 180 of their classmates twice a week.

So, when in-class instruction was suspended across B.C., the partners — Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, Growing Chefs!, Vancouver school board, and Ono Vancouver chef TJ Conwi — quickly pivoted to provide meals to hundreds of families.

That’s more than 5,500 meals a week for families identified by the VSB’s youth and family workers, said Alexa Pitoulis, interim executive director of Fresh Roots.

“We weren’t sure what we would do going into spring break, but our brains started turning and we worked out a way to support the school board’s effort to feed families that would have been benefiting from school lunch programs,” she said.

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Adopt-A-School program contributed $20,000 through the VSB to help scale-up the renamed LunchLAB: Chefs for Families.When Pitoulis reached out to Mario Micelli, executive director of the Italian Cultural Centre, for some kitchen space he did them one better, offering up the Centre’s spacious catering kitchen and the ballroom, where food is packaged for pickup and delivery.“We have a large commercial kitchen where people can work and maintain social distancing,” he said“We were already in a partnership with Fresh Roots supporting distribution of school-grown food for families to pick up and we love that because there is nothing more Italian than preparing way too much food and sharing it with family and friends,” said Micelli. “I can’t believe the huge number of volunteers that have come out to accomplish all this.”ICC chef Jackson Noah and his team are also working for the cause.Food suppliers Yen Bros. and Gordon Food Service have supplied pallet after pallet of surplus food to keep the operation flush with raw materials.“They way people have come together to help out vulnerable families has been incredibly satisfying for us to be a part of,” said Micelli.You can make tax-deductible donations to LunchLAB through Fresh Roots or Growing Chefs!The Italian Cultural Centre is supplying ready-to-eat meals to the Grandview-Woodland Food Connection and Britannia Community Centre for people living in isolation.Conwi is also operating a satellite kitchen generously offered by Pacific Restaurant Supply, where he had been cooking for displaced restaurant workers.

“PRS said yeah, you can keep cooking here and lent me the space,” he said. “So, we just started cooking for people, whoever needs it, in the Downtown Eastside and we just kept scaling up.”

That food is flowing out to the LunchLAB: Chefs for Families program, the Aboriginal Mother Centre, and the Carnegie Community Action Project, which recently received 300 pizzas and 200 tubs of macaroni and cheese.

The commercial kitchen at The Dirty Apron has been serving up 2,000 meals a week since the cooking school and deli were put on hiatus.

Chef David Robertson and many of his staff are donating their time to prepare free meals for seniors who cannot safely leave their homes, residents of SRO hotels and other vulnerable communities. They are working in collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Community College and Whole Way House.

Robertson’s crew is also supplying meals to frontline workers at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital through Feed the Frontline.

Salmon farmers Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood, Mowi Canada and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating 27,000 kilograms of salmon to food banks on Vancouver Island.

About 10,000 British Columbians depend on food banks and that demand is rising, according to Laura Lansink, executive director of Food Banks B.C.

“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” she said. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”