Friday, December 12, 2014

Food Revolution Toronto: Teamwork For A Common Goal...

I am always thrilled to share great work from my fellow Food Rev Ambassadors. Here is a lovely article from our leader Mardi Michels on how our Toronto team works together to champion the importance of keeping cooking skills alive for generations to come...

Original article on Jamie Oliver's web-site

Story by Mardi Michels

I’ve been a Food Revolution Ambassador since March 2012 when the programme launched and have three Food Revolution Days under my belt to date, plus a host of other community food education activities. In November 2010, I heard Jamie Oliver speak in Toronto, about the Food Revolution. During that talk I realised that, as an educator, I needed to take part in this grassroots Revolution (even in a tiny, drop-in-the-ocean kind of way) and a few short weeks later, Les Petits Chefs cooking club was born.

In tandem with my twice-weekly cooking sessions at my school, I’ve also been busy working on spreading the word and planning events for each Food Revolution Day. Over the past three years, the Food Revolution Toronto team has grown from just a couple of us to a really active core group of people. In the past 18 months, especially, we have made a big effort to meet regularly, even just for a coffee, to brainstorm ideas for Food Revolution Day activities. Through those meetings, we’ve become a much closer group and it’s been really helpful as we all work towards the same goal (#fooded for everyone!) to be touching base so often. Even though I do feel a Revolution is made from many small changes regularly by many people, there is still strength in numbers and certainly multiple heads and ideas are more powerful than one!

People often ask me “How do I become a Food Revolution Ambassador” (simple – you just have to apply!) and then “Why?” and that’s the question I asked a few of the Toronto crew recently. Linda said she got involved after seeing Jamie's Food Revolution show and realising that people didn't understand what was in their food and what it was doing to them. The fact that people didn't know how to cook a simple dish from scratch anymore resonated strongly with her and she’s set out to make a difference. Carol says “We need to get serious about food literacy in a not so serious way by educating others to enjoy cooking.” For a lot of people, “food literacy” is a scary term so our job as Ambassadors is to help people realise learning about food doesn’t have to be hard and that it’s also fun! Susan sums it up for many of us when she says she joined “Not to be one small voice but a powerful united front with like-minded passionate individuals around the world to make a difference in how and what we eat, and make it a better place for the future generation!” It seems that the idea of strength in numbers is a common theme!

And little by little, (those baby steps I often like to talk about), we are making a difference. Monika says: “Being a FRD ambassador has many fulfilling moments – the best part is when you’re running your event and the kids say they can’t wait to come back tomorrow or the parents say their kids had never eaten that before! It makes you feel like you’re making a real difference.” Carol has a hard time choosing one reason being a FRD Ambassador is so rewarding: “There is no "one" moment. Seeing kids develop confidence in the kitchen warms my heart. And I'm not talking about mastering a complicated task. It can be as simple as them having the confidence to ask a question, feel OK about making a mistake or learn how certain foods help their bodies to grow and stay healthy. I like to think that we make a difference with every single child we connect with and that's success to me.”

I think we all agree that whilst we are making some inroads towards spreading the word, there is still much to be done. We’d all like to see Home Economics brought back as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. We’re constantly working to align ourselves with support groups who are working hard to push for changes to the Ministry of Education's curriculum. And I think we all know that consistency in the message (#fooded for everyone!) and regular reminders are both key factors to effecting change.

To that effect in 2014-2015, we’re trying to keep the momentum going in between Food Revolution Days through a few smaller community activities where we can spread the word about the “Revolution”. We were fortunate enough to have leftover swag and funds from this year’s Food Revolution Day Toronto activities (courtesy of Sobeys and Harper Collins Canada and we decided to put these to good use by offering two free community cooking classes, the first of which was held in late November.

A small groups of parents and their kids gathered in the beautiful Sobeys’ test kitchen (generously donated) where Carol and Monika showed everyone how to make four Jamie Oliver recipes – yoghurt dip for vegetables, chicken fingers, granola, and super smoothies. Easy to make, kid-friendly food that everyone loved to make and eat. The kids were sad when the class ended but pumped (as were their parents) to go home and try the recipes for themselves. Small changes, often. This is what the Food Revolution can look like every day in home cooks’ kitchens all over the world. Susan wrote a post about the event, as did Linda. You can see my photos from the event here. On the heels of this success, we’re organising a second class, in the new year.

Coincidentally, Sobeys (the supermarket Jamie has partnered with here in Canada to bring better food choices to everyone) invited me to host a recent #BetterFoodForAll Twitter chat about cooking with kids. As an educator, even though it’s not my principal job (I am a French teacher!), teaching kids about food is some of the most important work I do. I was curious to hear how chat participants were working to get their kids in the kitchen. By far my biggest takeaway was the sheer number of people who are working hard to pass on cooking skills to their kids. What a great gift for the next generation. You can read my recap of the chat over on the #BetterFoodForAll blog.

So, as the year comes to an end, what does the Food Revolution look like for 2015? For me and for the Toronto Ambassadors, we’ll be working on more of the same - making small changes, regularly. Spreading the word that that change is do-able. After all, the Food Revolution is all about the journey, not the destination.

Mardi Michels had her dream come true meeting Jamie at a Sobeys' cooking event in October. Lucky girl!

About the author: Mardi Michels is a full-time teacher of French at an independent boys’ school in Toronto. She blogs at eat. live. travel. write. and has been a Food Revolution Ambassador for Toronto since 2012. Mardi is a regular contributor to JamieOliver.Com.

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1 comment:

  1. Really nice event!! I wish I could attend such cooking New York events!! I just love cooking and my son also helps me in the kitchen. We have lots of fun while cooking. Well dear it is so pleasing to see little kids in these pictures. Thanks for sharing dear!