Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mid-Week at My Place - Cookin' for the Kids

When I switched my kids to this new school one of the things I liked was that the school offered a lunch program. It was run by a group of volunteer parents who cooked fresh, diverse hot meals for the kids at the school who wanted them. The meals are funded through donations and every kid is welcome to a plate and seconds - even thirds if there is any left.

The idea is simple, no kid should go hungry at school.

Sadly, at other schools many do.

For me it was wonderful, here were parents providing what I believed should be a mainstay in a cold climate like Canada's - a healthy hot meal. I never understood why places like Florida, with their hot climate, had subsidized hot lunches but here where the weather can sometimes tip below -20c the school board didn't even offer soup to primary and junior school kids.

Needless to say. I signed up to volunteers, and yesterday was my 1st day in the kitchen.

It was busy and tiring - we only have from 9am to lunchtime to get the meal ready for up to 170 kids and we do it from a kitchen half the size of mine at home with minimal equipment. There were 2 other parents cooking yesterday, seasoned volunteer, and I was amazed what we can do with so little. As we cooked and the smell filled the air I could hear kids in the hall going "Mmmmm! Smells good!" and a few popping their heads in to ask what was on the menu. By quarter to twelve we had Mac and Cheese made from scratch, salad with fresh made dressing, fruit and rice ready for anyone who wanted it.

Since I hadn't served yet I hung around to see how that went as well so I knew what to do when it was my turn. The 1st kid thru the door was my daughter. Immediately I saw her begin to beam and I could see the pride in her eyes that I was there as a 'lunch lady'. I'm not too sure what she enjoyed more, the hot meal or being able to tell her friends that I helped make it. Doesn't really matter, I know I enjoyed doing it, and am glad to be part of it.

Worryingly, as I said, it runs on donations and a little bit of funding. While the program is in it's 3rd or 4th year it is evident that it needs more donations and volunteers to be sustainable. Changes were made this year to try to ensure it's success and we are hoping that our efforts between now and the new year are enough to keep it going - otherwise not only will my daughter no longer be able to have a hot lunch, a nice to have for her, but there will be some kids in the school, the kids that inspired the program in the first place, who will go hungry. We know this because before the program started they sat in the caf. every day with no food from home and when school started in September and there was a delay in starting the program there were a few kids arriving lunch-less to the cafeteria every day.

 Next week I fly solo in the kitchen for one day. I'm nervous that I can pull it off on my own but I'm going to do my level best. There's nothing better than a full tummy to help little minds grow and learn,and  I think I'm privileged to be able to help such a program. I hope to be able to do it until our school board decides a full belly is just as important as a textbook when it comes to learning.

If your reading this and thinking you would like to help us out somehow we would appreciate it! Much of the equipment we use is either insufficient or in need of replacing and our donations recieved barely cover the food. If anyone out there has any of the following new or gently used kitchen items to part with we would gratefully accept the help.

Right now we need:

  • a couple new rice cookers
  • restaurant sized buffet chaffing dishes
  • a food processor
  • large pots (that can fit on a residential sized stove)
  • new kitchen knives
  • more cutlery for the kids or better yet 'mess kits' they can take home and clean so we can use less paper plates (we have very limited access to a commercial dishwasher)

Many thanks as always for stopping by and having a read.

BHappy and have fun where ever you are!



martha brown said...

Good luck Barb! It is so wonderful of you and the other volunteers to do this for the kids. I can picture S perfectly with her "I'm proud of mom" smile. That's what keeps you going. Those smiles.......

BFine said...

Thanks Martha! Doesn't matter how old they get does it? :)