From fresh cranberries in October, to crimini mushrooms in November, there is no shortage of B.C.-grown and raised products just waiting to be enjoyed.
And thanks to the Take a Bite of B.C. program, students at Vernon and Fulton secondary schools are able to enjoy all that farmers have to offer.
The program is part of the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC), a non-profit organization that works with educators through various programs to bring B.C.’s agriculture to students enrolled in culinary arts programs throughout the province.
“Students learn about where their food comes from, how to grow their own food, and why farms and agriculture play such an important role in our society,” said Michelle Fripps, program coordinator-logistics.
Take a Bite of B.C. is one of several programs run by the BCAITC and was developed in partnership with the B.C. Culinary Arts Association, B.C. agricultural commodity groups and B.C. producers. BC. grown products are donated by suppliers to the program and delivered to participating school teaching kitchens once a month throughout the school year.
At VSS, culinary arts teacher Sandi Slizak said it’s fun to introduce new things to both students and staff.
‘The kids look at parsnips and groan, but I’d like to have them make a parsnip cake with cream cheese icing — we are putting it in their hands,” she said. “When we had turkeys delivered in September, we made a big turkey dinner, along with blueberry pie from the berries we received, and sold the meal to students and staff for $3.
The Take a Bite of B.C. program was launched in 2009 in 14 schools. There are currently 28 secondary schools participating, with the program expanding this year to include four Okanagan schools.
All products are donated by the farmers to enhance the culinary students’ learning experience by enabling them to work with fresh local products and providing awareness about where their food is grown.
“The farmers see the benefits of the students in the culinary arts program who benefit. The program keeps it close to home because if there are no farmers, there’s no food,” said Fripps, who credits Metro Vancouver for providing funding to ship the produce to the schools. “The kids get to try something new, like the Ramiro Hot Peppers or the Crescensco Grill Peppers.”
Next up will be a shipment of rutabagas and turnips and no, said Fripps, they are not the same thing.
BCAITC has a number of programs that connect kids with agriculture. The B.C. School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program delivers fresh, local fruit and vegetable snacks to more than half a million students in B.C. More than 1,400 schools participate in the program, funded by the B.C. Ministry of Health.
“So students learn what’s grown in B.C. and that it tastes good, and it’s amazing what students learn — I have had students who have never tasted a plum before,” said Fripps. “I remember as a kid growing up on the Coast that we were always really excited when the Okanagan cherries arrived, but many kids today are unaware of where their food is grown. There is a disconnect where once many of us had grandfathers and great-grandfathers who had come from the farm.
“The fruit and veg program got them engaged at an early age and we are now getting them excited about mushrooms, chickens and cheese. The teachers are inspiring the student, putting the foods in the hands of the students.”
And it all comes back to eating locally as much as possible.
“It’s a shorter period of time from picking to eating, as these are not varieties that were developed for transport, so the flavours are better.”