Out of the frying pan - The Orca

Out of the frying pan

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Jody Vance: Rumours that the Vancouver School Board is considering changes to its cafeteria program had better just be that – rumours.

There’s a rumour flying around the Lower Mainland that has my spidey senses tingling.

Word on the street (and by street I mean Twitter) is that the Vancouver School Board considering changes to the public high school cafeteria program.

As someone who looks back at that program as being the most valuable in my postgraduate life, rumour or not, I’m adding my voice to the “absolutely not” chorus.

There isn’t a lot of middle here. Please don’t mess with the Caf program.

Allow me to rewind to 1981 and my first Cafeteria Class with Julius Pokomandy. This now legendary BC chef masterfully guided students through the culinary arts. We learned to work as a team, to deadline, with multiple plans (recipes) followed.

The culture of the kitchen at South Delta Senior Secondary had no bullies or hierarchy of any sort; Mr. P wouldn’t have that in his kitchen. Throughout my three years of high school, the majority of my greatest learning moments happened in this class.

By my senior year he was asking me to step up, to lead. Just before graduation he shared with me and my family that he had taken it upon himself to apply, on my behalf, for a government grant so that I might attend the prestigious Pierre DuBrulle Culinary Academy. It was an intensive, and very expensive, course that results in Red Seal Certification, one our family would never have been able to afford.

Both shocked and incredibly proud, I took that spot. It was very tough, but somehow I made it through as the youngest to ever complete the course.

My culinary trade school was vital in forming the adult I am today. You might be scratching your head and pointing out I’m a broadcaster and writer, and not a chef.

You’re right, I’m not. But having that training gave me the confidence to chase my broadcast dreams without worry, because I always had culinary skills to fall back on. It was my cushion. People always gotta eat!

This is just my story. It’s certainly not everyone’s journey to cook professionally, but I believe that every student benefits from a teaching kitchen; connecting with a teacher in a kitchen classroom. Learning to cook is about more than loving to cook, it’s knowing how to feed yourself and those around you.

Cafeterias in Vancouver public schools need to see their potential maximized. They are a necessity for a functioning school in that they feed the student body — but also an opportunity to see young people learn life’s big lessons.

We learned about life while we learned about food, about helping others as we learn to feed ourselves. Julius Pokomandy taught hundreds of us about making good food choices.

Let’s see a vending machine do that.

To the VSB: If it’s a rumour, quash it. If it is being considered, please don’t fix what’s clearly not broken.

Cafeteria Class is one of the few “life skill” classrooms left – and a skill everyone should have.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.