Small Bites, Big Change _Riverdale Garden Project
Empowering Riverdale’s Food Security was Green Venture’s latest project to integrate education, health, recreation and the environment.
Funded by the Community Foundation, this project included a series of nine cooking classes delivered over six weeks that paired local food, agriculture and gardening themed recipes and activities.
Green Venture staff initially experienced frustration locating a suitable space for holding these classes. This challenge ended up leading Green Venture to a fantastic opportunity: a first-time collaboration with the City of Hamilton’s Riverdale Community Centre afterschool program.
The after school program and cooking classes were open to children ages five to twelve living in the Riverdale Community. Thirty children, representing the neighbourhood’s rich cultural diversity (including newcomers), registered for the hands on program.
Through handling, preparing and tasting fresh whole foods, the children explored and learned about the food system and how their choices can make positive or negative impacts. They explored how and where their favorite fruits and vegetables grow (local vs. imports), identifying processed or un/less processed foods, food packaging and waste reduction, vegetarian “superfoods” (i.e.: Meatless Mondays), and the power of food celebrations.
These children learned that making simple delicious fun recipes at home with their families really could strengthen food security in their community while improving the health of their environment and their growing bodies. At the end of the six weeks, each child participated in a mock farmers’ market where they picked out all the fresh ingredients needed to make one of their favourite recipes, cheese and veggie quesadillas. The children were all challenged to apply what they learned by taking the ingredients home and preparing a meal with their families.
It was inspiring to see children build confidence, work as a team and even demonstrate leadership through food. Equally as impressive was seeing them make proactive choices about the types of recipes they wanted to make and eat.
We asked the participants to tell us about what they learned from the program. Here is what a few of them had to say.
The best ingredients Green Venture used was:
“orange pepper” – Shyanne, 6
“tortilla bread” – Nora, 10
“tomatoes” – Shenika, 11
“peanut butter” – Justin, 9 (we used natural PB; no additives)
I learned this about food and the environment:
“you should eat healthy and fresh” – Nora, 10
“[not to eat] processed foods” – Shenika, 11
“unprocessed food isn’t always healthier [for the environment]” in reference to local vs. imported fresh foods – Ronald, 10
The recipe I will try to make at home:
“Kale chips” – Nora, 10
“Fresh Fruit Salsa” – Rami, 11
“Peanut butter-banana spirals” – Shyanne, 6
“Lemonade” – Hailina, 10 (freshly squeezed)
Green Venture would like to thank the Conserver Society, our sponsoring partner, for helping to bring this project to life. And we would also like to recognize the dedication of two high school volunteers from the Riverdale Community that demonstrated a special level of care and dedication to every cooking class.
Written by Sapphire Singh & Virginia Stonehouse