Roots to Harvest has found a unique way to continue to offer food programming to Thunder Bay secondary students.
With their mobile outdoor kitchen, Roots to Harvest has been able to visit students at Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Hammarskjold and I.R. Churchill Lac des Mille Lacs School and to Kiashke Zaaging Anishnaabek First Nation.
“When the COVID restriction happened we knew that going into the schools wasn’t going to be an option but we still wanted to connect with the students,” said Erin Beagle, the executive director for Roots to Harvest.
Instead of taking a virtual approach to teaching cooking, Roots to Harvest assembled the mobile kitchen that includes a portable pizza oven, propane camp stove, hand crank blender and a small campfire.
On Oct. 9, students at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute had an opportunity to cook with the outdoor kitchen.
“We still wanted to be really hands-on and immersed so we assembled all the different tools we thought we could use creatively to keep people distanced and still experience food,” said Beagle.
“For us it is about connecting to kids and for kids right now there is so much online that a lot of the hands-on things have been taken away,” she said.
The classes are also a way to get the students more familiar with food so they can take those lessons home and cook.
For Kristine Hilden, foods and nutrition teacher at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute, she hopes that students will take away a love and passion for food through lessons like the outdoor cooking.
“The fact that they can learn about different cultures and learn about the nutritional aspects of the food we are cooking . . . and the awareness that they can do it and it is easy,” said Hilden.
The fun aspect to the outdoor cooking lesson is also important.
“When we look at some of the changes that we are facing with the school year, it is great that we can get into the food lab and have these hands-on activities where they can be experiencing life skills,” explained Hilden.
The students not only learned how to make pizzas, they also made the dough, sauce, worked on their chopping skills and learned kitchen safety.
“For me, what is also really important is the teamwork component — whether they go on to work in a kitchen or restaurant or any place of employment they are working as a team and learning how to co-operate, collaborate and problem solve,” said Hilden.
Roots to Harvest has also been helping to restore the school’s gardens and have planted garlic for next spring and winter wheat.