Culinary arts programs on the chopping block to save Vancouver School Board money
VANCOUVER - Whisking together new recipes and learning from a red seal chef is an experience currently offered at seven Vancouver high schools that are equipped with teaching cafeterias.
A new report examining ways for the Vancouver School Board to save money suggests reducing that number to just two, plus one to be built in a future "centre of excellence" that would be built under the provincial seismic program.
Supporters of culinary arts programs in Vancouver schools say this is the wrong approach.
“There isn’t a single teaching cafeteria west of Main Street, so every student west of Main Street in high school has to actually travel by bus or car to one of the schools that have it,” said Bill Tieleman, spokesperson for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 963, representing school cafeteria employees and chefs.
"We have an enormous shortage of chefs of cafeteria workers everything in the restaurant and foodservice industry. They should really be looking at expanding this program not cutting it," Tieleman said.
Annalida Leung, a trade-qualified baker, is a teacher with the program. While her job would be at risk with the change, she says she’s more concerned about the students.
"For students that don’t really know what they want to do, this is one way for us to kind of give them that road map of if they like to cook or if they like to bake, kind of spark that passion,” said Leung.
The report also recommends modifying the hot lunch program at Vancouver elementary schools, replacing it with delivered food that would be prepared off-site.
Krista Sigurdson, chair of the Lord Strathcona Elementary Parent Advisory Council, has concerns.
“If off-site delivery were to be done and privatization were to occur, we have less assurance of adherence to food guidelines," Sigurdson said. "It’s an issue of control. The further the VSB loses control over the food, the less regulation there is going to be potentially over the quality."
She’s also worried it could single students out.
“Offsite delivery would potentially only target kids in need, effectively differentiating poor kids from their wealthier counterparts,” said Sigurdson.
“The last thing we need to do is have people signaled out because of their socioeconomic problems that they have a meal delivered to them and everyone sees it,” said Tieleman.
Nothing is set in stone, the VSB says, adding it won’t make any decisions without consulting parents, teachers and students.
“A number of factors were considered in the report," said VSB trustee and chair Janet Fraser. "A number of options were put forward, it's up to the board to decide how to move forward."
Consultation is tentatively scheduled to begin in the new year.
“I’d encourage people to engage in that to let us know how we can proceed," said Fraser.