Instilling Nutrition, One Chef at a Time

George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts (CHCA) operates one of the top ten culinary schools in North America. Its Chef School has an outstanding reputation for teaching traditional French cooking methods. Here, the students enjoy developing their own “artistic” skills.  Despite these recognized strengths, the College understood that the world was changing, moving to healthier choices of ingredients, methods of preparation and a diversity of cultural food offerings. It needed to adapt, to retain and grow its reputation.

With George Brown College’s CHCA and Research faculties, The Helderleigh Foundation saw a professional, academic body with the capacity, capability and interest to instill nutrition in its programming. It was an opportunity to enhance the working knowledge, and skills of tomorrow’s chefs. Both the College and The Helderleigh Foundation thought this work could be expanded to the benefit of other organizations and professionals at large. This agenda was a good fit with the objects of The Helderleigh Foundation to improve the diet, physical health and wellness of Canadians.

“The journey and demands of a culinary job…worked against my commitment to hold together a young family.”

It took over a year to establish a relationship. Using the toolkit “Negotiating Donor Agreements with Universities,” available through Philanthropic Foundations Canada; both George Brown College Foundation, the fund raising arm of George Brown College, represented by Cindy Gouveia, President and The Helderleigh Foundation took the opportunity to learn from other donor agreements and experiences to get a practical understanding of the key components of a successful working relationship and that of the Agreement itself. A four year one million dollar agreement was signed in late 2014. We never looked back.

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Establishing a Partnership for Greater Impact

At the outset, both parties agreed to a partnership. This was a new and different arrangement requiring transparency, trust and goodwill. A Partnership Advisory Board was established ensuring appropriate administration of the donated funds and a format for discussion and advancement of jointly agreed nutritional goals.

Lorraine Trotter, Dean of CHCA and Christine Walker, Chair of the Chef School developed and implemented a comprehensive “Nutritional Blueprint”, representing seven broad based goals with over 20 supporting tactics, to ensure the value the foundation placed on good nutrition and healthy lifestyle were adopted and integrated into the programs at George Brown College as a philosophy, rather than just as a stipulation of an agreement to be adhered to only four years.

Significant to these efforts were the opportunities provided to full and part time faculty to support professional training and pursuit of post-graduate credentials (Masters, PhD) in nutrition. This turned out to be a critical success factor within the Nutritional Blueprint. The Foundation also established annual Food and Nutrition Excellence Awards for seven students.

Curriculum improvements included; course design changes to reduce salt, sugar, unnecessary fats and processed flours, utilization of more sustainable shellfish and locally-sourced produce.  An upgraded General Education nutrition course, available as an elective for all students and a mandatory nutrition course for those students enrolled in culinary education was established.

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A Cornucopia of Outcomes

The partnership launched the innovative and successful Helderleigh Nutrition Application Fund (HNAF). The Fund, administered by a joint Task Force of The Helderleigh Foundation Board members and College officials invited third party not-for-profit organizations to submit applications for nutritionally based research projects. Unique from other Funds, successful applicants hired the resources of the College and used grant dollars from the HNAF to undertake the work. Students, faculty and technicians gained valuable experience while the applicants benefited from their output. Ten qualified organizations advanced their work. Nearly all of these projects were undertaken by CHCA’s Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt) kitchen lab. The Helderleigh Foundation was pleased to financially contribute and be instrumental in the expansion of this state of the art facility and other labs.

The partnership put in place an annual “Ambition Nutrition” symposium with a vision to transform the way individuals think about nutrition and culinary arts translating research and theory into daily habits to promote, create and share healthy food options for all. This platform features some of the world’s leading nutrition experts and brings together hundreds of industry leaders, practitioners, academia and the general public.

“I am excited to learn more about nutrition…[and] your support is helping me reach my goal of graduating.”

The creation of this partnership has made a positive impact on the lives of culinary arts students and scholarship award winners. Eugene Badal, a now graduate and Helderleigh scholarship recipient, recently established his own award for Nutrition students stated, “…. The journey and demands of a culinary job was very challenging….and worked against my commitment to hold together a young family…. Thanks to the Helderleigh Foundation Food and Nutrition Excellence Award, I was able to complete my postgraduate program without financial stress.”

Similarly, Chiharu Gyakushi, another award recipient said: “I am excited to learn more about nutrition as it plays a critical role in everyone’s lives. Your support is helping me reach my goal of graduating, Food and Nutrition Management Program and promote knowledge of nutrition.”

The Helderleigh Foundation/CHCA partnership ensures that the next generation of George Brown College chefs have inculcated a philosophy of nutritional awareness and healthy eating that will, in turn trickle down to their communities – an outcome of which The Helderleigh Foundation, CHCA and George Brown College can be proud.

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