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Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab -Co-op Radio Vancouver

Our fearless Interim Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis, chats about all things Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab with Don Shafer produced by CFRO FM (Co-op Radio Vancouver). Thanks so much for the opportunity to share a little bit about what we are up to these days and how we adapted our LunchLAB in-school meal program along with our partner Growing Chefs! to offer students and families meals out of school during this uncertain time.
Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO To learn more or to donate visit www.lunchlab.ca

Listen to “Alexa Pitoulis – Freshroots Urban Farm Society” on Spreaker.

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

Randy Shore

https://vancouversun.com/news/covid-19-food-educators-chefs-pumping-out-thousands-of-meals-for-people-in-need/wcm/ed146a8f-a077-4103-84b3-1f6b5ae935da/

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.”

rshore@postmedia.com

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The Entire World is Re-Examining How Communities Operate Due to COVID-19. Here’s How We Fit In.

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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Fresh Five Week 3: Earth Day!

Earth Day turns 50 this year! Back in 1970, an American politician named Gaylord Nelson wanted to harness the energy of youth activism to bring attention to environmental issues. That year, 20 million Americans (10% of the total population) took part in marches, rallies, and learning sessions, and their collective voices and the connections made from that first Earth Day led to important environmental legislation in the US, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts within three years.

Today, Earth Day is a global event that has gone digital! You can learn more and find lots more ideas of how to get involved at earthday.org. And, of course, we have a Fresh Five things you can do to celebrate this beautiful planet we call home.

 Dress Your Veggies

A friend of mine asked people to share what they had way too much of in their pantry that they didn’t know what to do with, and someone said “Nutritional Yeast!” So I just had to share our Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing. We use it to make our farm-fresh salads irresistible – we have to cut kids off at 5 plates of kale salad, it’s that good! If you, too, have a supply of nutritional yeast in your pantry and aren’t sure what to do with it other than put it on popcorn, here’s an awesome solution. It’s great on salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, grains, and more.

What does this have to do with Earth Day, you ask? Well, when we make veggies delicious, kids (and parents) will choose to eat more of them. That’s not only good for your body, it’s good for the planet too. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change globally, so choosing plant-based foods more often reduces your carbon footprint. And if you can get your veggies from a local farmer, or your own garden plot, that’s even better!

Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing

 

Learn About Food & Climate

Raising animals isn’t the only part of our food system that’s connected to our warming climate. From farming to processing to packaging to waste, every part of out food system has impacts on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This interactive learning resource from the Center for Ecoliteracy is a deep dive into the topic for middle and high school students, or anyone curious about the food system. And don’t worry – it’s not all bad news! You’ll discover lots of ways the people are making change for good in their communities and beyond.

Understating Food and Climate Change

 

Discover Backyard Nature

What better way to honor Earth Day than to learn about some of the other living things that make their homes here? Seek is a kid-safe mobile app created by the iNaturalist folks. Just point the app’s camera at a plant, bug, bird, mushroom, or other living things and the app will tell you all about it! Plus, you can earn badges and participate in challenges. There’s no registration required, and all location data collected is obscured to protect privacy. Happy Searching!

Find the Seek App

 

Make Veggie Art

If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables. And if you’re wondering what to do with those veggie prints, may I suggest making an Earth Day card or banner to hang in your window?

Veggie Print Activity Guide

Sing Along with Eco Jams

What better way to wrap up a list of ways to honour the Earth than with an Earth-themed concert you can sing and dance along to from the comfort of your living room? As a grad student, I had the privilege to have singer, songwriter, social worker, and educator Joe Reilly join my outdoor school program for an Artist-in-Residence week. He worked with the kids to write songs, and led us all in a concert that was just the best. As his website says, “The core of his message is an invitation to heal our relationships with our selves, with each other, and with the earth.” His songs full of science facts, silliness, so much joy, and a ton of heart. He’s live streaming throughout the week on his Facebook page, or you can check out a recorded live stream here.

Joe Reilly Earth Week Non-Tour

May you love the Earth and all the life she sustains,

Kat

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Fresh Five Week 2: Celebrate Spring!

This week we got to see the the first full moon of Spring, and it was gorgeous! I hope you got to see it rising as the sun was setting. Many First Nations have traditional names for each of the 13 full moons of the year. The W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) name for this month’s full moon is Pexsisen, the Moon of the Opening Hands or the Blossoming Out Moon, which reflects both the blossoming of flowers and budding of trees, and the open hand gesture of gratitude.

(Learn more about all the W̱SÁNEĆ moons.)

The full moon also heralds a number of religious holidays and cultural spring festivals, including Passover, which starts April 8th, and Easter on April 12. Only a couple of weeks ago, people were celebrating the Spring Equinox, Nowruz, and Ostara, with Holi shortly before that. This year, Ramadan will start on April 23. And we’re right in Cherry Blossom season, as the trees at David Thompson are showing!

While there may be lots of different ways people celebrate this time of year, most of them involve gathering with family and community, and sharing food. This week’s Fresh Five are all about ways we can connect to our communities, make things to share, and have fun! Our gatherings may need to be more digital this year, but I hope everyone finds a way to celebrate the warmth, beauty, and blooming welcome of spring.

Explore Your Spring Traditions

At Fresh Roots, we think everyone should have healthy food, land, and communities, and one of the ways we strengthen our communities is through traditions! Whether your spring celebrations center around a religious holiday, a natural phenomenon, or a special calendar date, talking to your elders about where those traditions come from is a great way to build relationships.
Exploring Spring Traditions Activity Guide

 

Make Dandelion Fritters

Flowers and food are important parts of lots of spring traditions! We thought we’d bring these two things together with this simple and simply yummy recipe for Dandelion Fritters. Dandelions are amazing plants – the leaves, roots, and flowers are all edible, and they are an amazing food source for our early season pollinators, including bumblebees!
Dandelion Fritters Recipe

 

Write a Cherry Blossom Haiku

I was fortunate to get out to David Thompson for an afternoon this week. We have two beautiful flowering cherries right near the entrance to the farm, and they were in their full glory. Cherry blossom season is only a few weeks long, and different cherries bloom at different times. You can learn more about what’s blooming in Vancouver at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Blooming Now page. What kinds of trees are blooming in your neighborhood?

Feeling inspired by all these blossoming beauties? Write a haiku and submit it to the Haiku Invitational!
Cherry Blossom Haiku Invitational

 

Dye Eggs with Plants

Decorating eggs is part of a number of spring celebrations, including Nowruz and Easter, probably because eggs are such a universal symbol for new life, and because chickens start to lay more eggs in the spring, so there’s plenty to go around. Didn’t get a dye kit from the store, or just looking for a more natural route? You can use things you might already have in your kitchen to make beautiful eggs! The ones in the picture were dyed with red cabbage, and left to soak for a few hours in the fridge. They were such a beautiful color!
Dye Eggs with Plants

Plant a Kitchen Window Garden

On the farm, we love to celebrate spring by planting seeds! You can celebrate with us by planting seeds in your garden, or even in a repurposed container on your windowsill. Our friends at Growing Chefs have a great video lesson all about soil and how to plant your windowsill garden. Subscribe to their YouTube channel for more great gardening and cooking lessons you can do at home!
Windowsill Garden Lesson

Happy Spring, everyone!

Kat

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Fresh Five Ideas for At Home Learning #1

Welcome to the first edition of the Fresh Five!

Hey there, friends. This is Kat, your friendly local Experiential Learning Manager.

Wow, this is a different learning environment than we were expecting to be in this spring. I’m frankly devastated not to have you on the farms for the time being. But it’s been so deeply beautiful to see how educators all over the world are stepping up to meet this challenge. There are so many activities, digital resources, free concerts, Zoom webinars, and educational websites out there, and more coming everyday!

While all those resources are so great, I know it can be hard to sort through everything that’s coming across your email and social media feeds to find the things your kids will love (especially while you’re trying to parent your kids at home, or teach your kids who are now in 25 different homes). But never fear! The Fresh Five is here to help!

Each week, we will be sharing five of our favorite ideas for at home learning around the things Fresh Roots is known for: food and food systems, ecological stewardship, and community celebration. Some of the activities, like this week’s Super Seeds lesson are pulled from our collection of farm and classroom programming, and have been adapted for home learning. Others are recommendations from our partners and friends in the world of farming, food, and environmental education.  If you have an activity you’d love to see featured, drop an email to education@freshroots.ca and let us know!

We’ll be posting them here on our blog (you can bookmark freshroots.ca/freshfive to always find the latest Five), and sharing them on our Facebook,  Instagram and Twitter feeds. We’ll also be posting regular photos and videos from the farm on social media, so follow us to keep up on all the breaking veggie news!

OK, that’s enough intro. Here’s this week’s Fresh Five!

Carrot Fries

Every week at Camp Fresh Roots, our campers work together to make lunch for the whole camp. One of last summer’s hit recipes were these Carrot Fries with Lime Crema, which we served with homemade veggie burgers. It’s a great way to use that 5-lb bag of carrots you bought, and is super kid-friendly, both to make and eat. At camp, we’ll have an adult cut the carrots in half lengthwise so there’s a flat edge for them to sit on, then the kids cut them into quarters! (Oh, and camp registrations are still open!)
Carrot Fries Recipe

 

Signs of Spring-O Neighborhood Bingo

Are your kids (and, let’s be honest, you) getting tired of walking around the same 5 blocks over and over again as you try to get some fresh air and gentle exercise during these days of physical distancing? Print out this Neighborhood Bingo sheet! Look at your local environment in a whole new way as you notice how spring is blooming all around us.
Spring-O Bingo Card

 

Food and Farmworkers

I’m a podcast person. I have about 30 different podcasts that update regularly in my feed, on topics from food to mythology to history to linguistics. So when I heard a recent episode of the US-based economics podcast Planet Money about how COVID-19 is impacting American farm workers, I wanted to share it. This is a complex topic, touching on issues of food security, labour rights (or lack thereof), public health, and yes, econ. It’s sure to spark discussions, so we’ve made a bit of framing for it. I recommend listening with your older student and discussing it together. (And in case you’re wondering, Fresh Roots farmworkers are mostly local university students, and pay starts at $15.50/hour.)
Food and Farmworkers Activity Guide

 

Super Seeds!

One of our most popular classroom workshops is Super Seeds! And now you can try it for yourself! We’ve adapted our workshop curriculum to be done at your kitchen table, with just things you probably have on hand. If you have or can find Lima beans, I recommend them for this, as they are both very large (so it’s easy to see what’s in them), and the skins are relatively thin, so they are easy to peel.
Super Seed Activity Guide

 

Recycled Garden Gnome

The Whole Kids Foundation, one of Fresh Roots’ generous funders, has a collection of fun activities for kids and families. We thought this Garden Gnome was just super cute and we had to include it in this week’s collection. If you don’t have acrylic paint, or metal fasteners at home, get creative!  What else could you use to decorate your Gnome?
Garden Gnome Craft Sheet

That’s all for this week! May you plant love and peas, and be well.
Kat

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We’re Still Farming~A Fresh Roots COVID-19 Update

Dear Fresh Roots Community,

Like many of you, we are closely following COVID-19 developments and taking steps to keep our team and all those we work with healthy. We hope you and yours are safe and well during this time. We wanted to share what’s happening here at Fresh Roots.

Most importantly, our team is working to ensure our farms will be growing more rather than less food this season to feed you, your families and our community. Food is an essential service and a strong local food system is more important now than ever.

Signing up for a Fresh Roots Veggie Box is a great way to access weekly, hyper-local produce! Sign up today or inquire to see how you could buy a Veggie Box to be donated, email food@freshroots.ca to learn more.

With the announcement of indefinite school closures, we’ve suspended all of our school-based programming, including field trips and field classes until school reopens. This also includes the LunchLAB program we run in partnership with Growing Chefs!. We happily look forward to re-scheduling these programs once safe to do so.

At this time we are planning on running our summer SOYL youth leadership and empowerment program and kids camps as planned. Youth registration for SOYL is open until the end of April at: https://freshroots.ca/get-involved/soyl/ and camp registration is ongoing at: https://freshroots.ca/education/camp/.

We continue to monitor the situation and recommendations by the health authorities and will communicate any further adaptations and plans to Fresh Roots programs to you all as the situation develops. The safety of our community comes first. We have communicated to our partners that we are here to help support the kids, youth and families in our communities through these challenging times.

We are also working creatively to look into how we can support distance learning for classes and families. Maybe a virtual farm tour for your kids or class? A “meet a farmer or chef” program? Lesson plans you can use or share? We’d love any suggestions you may have! Follow us on social media to learn about upcoming online resources, tools, and program ideas.

We greatly appreciate all the support our community has given to ensure the continued success of Fresh Roots – thank you!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at info@freshroots.ca or by phone at 778-764-0DIG (0344).

With a fistful of hopeful sunshine,

Alexa and the Fresh Roots team