Friends of the Fresh Food Frenzy
Growing Chefs! Ontario’s innovative program has roots in Montessori Academy of London’s curriculum.
“Montessori Academy has been incredibly open to working with us,” explains Growing Chefs! Ontario Executive Director Andrew Fleet, whose fresh idea – a local, farm-to-table food education initiative – has been growing in popularity since it first germinated in London in 2008. In fact, you might say Growing Chefs has become a “rock-star chef” in its own right. The initiative received a wealth of local media coverage in October 2014 for its popular programs and for successfully garnering a hefty grant through The Ontario Trillium Foundation.
As he downplays his program’s star status, he’s quick to thank the program’s community partners for the stellar success of Growing Chefs. Among them is Montessori Academy of London.
The Growing Chefs ‘Test Kitchen’
“Montessori Academy has been involved with just about every project we’ve had,” Fleet says enthusiastically. “Our program wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for Montessori.” The partnership, he says, allowed Growing Chefs to develop its programs quicker than it would have otherwise.
“Teaming with Montessori Academy helped us approach the Thames Valley District School Board with an innovative food-education program that was tried and tested with local teachers and students.”
London-area families and students now benefit from Growing Chefs’ programs, which get children “excited about wholesome healthy food.” The Fresh Food Frenzy, the School Project for Grades 5-8 students, and The Beet Café catering provide students everything from food-prep skills to work experience to a greater appreciation of where their food comes from.
Whipping Up Fresh Ideas
Growing Chefs had a children’s curriculum when it first connected with Montessori Academy’s Casa pre-school program. After this successful trial, Growing Chefs approached the Academy to help pilot the Classroom Kitchen Project for Junior High students. “We were able to share our earliest ideas with Montessori Academy students and gather feedback on what worked and what didn’t. From there, we improved and tailored our programs for the public-school system,” Fleet says.
The relationship didn’t stop there. “When we launched our catering program, The Beet Café, Montessori was once again ready to work with us. Our first catering project was the Montessori Academy of London’s AGM in March 2014.”
These programs, which have waiting lists of schools interested in them, benefit the greater community in London-Middlesex – and beyond. “I’ve told other non-profit organizations across Ontario that if you want to pilot an education program, look at schools like Montessori Academy of London,” Fleet says. “They are community-minded, and love innovation and new ideas.”