Project CHEF transfers its resources to Adopt-a-School

Project CHEF transfers its resources to Adopt-a-School

The funds were transferred with the stipulation the amount not be disclosed. But it was a substantial donation.


It was the most successful culinary program ever offered in the Vancouver school system — a travelling kitchen of chefs who would encamp in an elementary school and teach families how to cook and what to eat.

“I wanted to give children and parents the knowledge and skills necessary to make healthy food choices — empower them to create good food for themselves,” says Project CHEF founder and executive director Barb Finley.

They could be in the school for a week teaching younger grades, but there was an in-residence program for a whole school which could run for two to three months.

A former elementary teacher who taught in Vancouver, Langley and UBC before leaving to become a trained chef, Finley combined her talents to launch Project CHEF in the fall of 2007.

She would teach 17,500 school children and an estimated 8,000 parents the joys of making and eating healthy meals, collecting community awards along the way, including induction into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame and receiving a Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal.

Then the pandemic arrived.

“I remember our last day of programming was March 13, 2020 just before spring break. We were scheduled to start our spring break camp, then we were going into (General) Wolfe Elementary to do an in-residence program after that. But then everything stopped.”

For Project CHEF to work, schools need to be open so she can bring in small teams and have parents and community volunteers come into classrooms.

“We’d cook and eat together. We were an experiential program and you can’t experience food education without getting your hands wet or dirty. We couldn’t do that with COVID.”

Shut out of schools, she transferred what she could of the program online, putting up over 100 recipes, 40 learning activities and 11 videos on Project CHEF’s website.

But by July 2020, she temporarily suspended operations when it was clear there was no likelihood of being allowed back into schools that September.

This year, she closed it all down permanently.

“Education is looking quite different for the foreseeable future, so I decided to close it down. It was time to hang up the apron.”

It was then she turned her mind to what she should do with donated funds she had for programs that now would never be offered.

“I wanted to find a program that would be in line with our mission and the vision of our donors and pass on our legacy.

“I selected Adopt-a-School because I closely followed the stories (in The Vancouver Sun) and I know this program is really concerned with food security for children because there is such great need out there.”

She also picked Adopt-a-School because it does not take administration fees out of donations — all the money raised goes to feed, clothe and care for impoverished children.

“For me, that was important. I ran Project CHEF on a dime. There are many organizations which may do good, but they spend an awful lot of money doing it.

“I have read a number of the applications to Adopt-a-School for help and I just can’t believe some of them — the need is so great and seems to be getting worse.

“So I was glad to pass on our pool of resources to your program.”

The funds were transferred with the stipulation the amount not be disclosed. But it was a substantial donation.

Adopt-a-School was created in 2011 to feed, clothe and provide help to impoverished children coming to school hungry or with inadequate clothing.

Since the initiative started, more than $8 million has been sent to schools in all parts of the province that have appealed for help.

However, this year has brought an avalanche of requests from hundreds of schools — almost twice as many as seen in previous years.

“We will try our very best to help these schools so we are appealing to our readers, once again, to help us do this,” said Harold Munro, editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun and Province, and chair of the board of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund which administers Adopt-a-School.

Schools are seeking more than $1.8 million to help them deal with child poverty.

By Gerry Bellett (

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