Promoting Cultural Diversity through Food

By: Chinenye Anokwuru March, 2020

A new wave of young chefs are getting trained to build bridges and connect with other cultures by cooking. Coming from different cultures, these chefs are able to bring different ideas, flavours and stories to this culinary experience.

The Chefs in Training program, an initiative of the CHEP Gro Food Inc. in Saskatoon, incorporates strong cultural components that allow its young participants from a diversity of background to connect through food.

The participants are elementary and high school children within the ages of ten to 14, and 16 to eighteen, selected from schools in Saskatoon’s core neighborhood. Most of the participants are from Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds, cooking for an interesting new way to explore culture.

Jean Goerzen, Interim Director, CHEP, says the initiative is tailored to helping newcomers and Indigenous students to engage with other cultures while also encouraging cultural diversity. 

The program recognizes that the students and their families have diverse food traditions and practices and encourages them to learn about different food and beverage options and practices in Canada, as well as those from around the world.

“Typically about one third of the participants are Indigenous and one third are newcomers. This is an initiative that celebrates diversity through food,” she explains. “It promotes inclusion and sharing of culture through food.”

“Students are able to learn about foods from other cultures and are able to make healthy food choices from diverse cuisines and traditional food practices, to help their families,” says Goerzen.

“CHEP is committed to promoting food security in the community by building skills to grow food, make good food accessible and affordable, and by building skills ‘using’ food - through kitchen and food safety, budgeting and cooking.”

She says that this after-school program gives children an opportunity they might not otherwise receive. “A life skill such as this project also focuses on training them on how to prepare budget-friendly and nutritious meals that they can replicate at home.”

According to Goerzen, the program’s vision for the future transcends the training. There are plans to spread the word about diversity and inclusivity through a CHEP cookbook, which will reach a wider audience in the province. Some of the recipes created by the students will be featured in the cookbook.

The project was launched for the first time in February 2020, and has 12 participating schools in Saskatoon. The students participate in a 90 minute session once a week for five weeks, and are facilitated by CHEP-trained facilitators and volunteers.

This project received funding from SaskCulture’s Multicultural Initiatives Fund.