Learning to source and prepare economical and nutritious food may be among the most valuable life skills a person can have, but as a group of students at Brooks Secondary School are learning, it is not always simple. A senior foods and nutrition class taught by Krista Bangham is delving into the realities of what it means to be food secure in Powell River.
“It's a foods class but I’m trying to emphasize social responsibility,” said Bangham. “I’m trying to teach them life skills; it’s not just baking cookies.”
Cooking and baking does play a part in the curriculum, however, as each week the students prepare and deliver hot lunches to students at Henderson Elementary School. They also helped out at the Powell River Food Bank stocking the shelves during the busy holiday season, and a theoretical classroom project has given the youth insight into living costs many hadn’t previously grasped, said Bangham.
“I asked, ‘Realistically what do you think you’d like to do after high school?’” she added. “All kinds of jobs came up: carpenter, brain surgeon, barista.”
They then looked at average salaries and tax deductions for each occupation.
“That was eye opening, they couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Then they picked a scenario, such as you’re a single mom with three kids or you’re single and you only have a dog.”
With their respective salaries and food budgets of 11 per cent of their disposable incomes, students then planned a week’s worth of meals.
“What really stands out is how expensive food is,” said Jacob Astells, grade 11. “I was just very surprised. My budget was very small and I had a hard time feeding my family in the project. I was really struggling. What sounded like a lot of money for one week actually turned out to be not very much. It really made me think.”
Classmate Brendan Durant agreed.
“We had to plan meals for the week and it’s a lot harder than you’d think,” said Durant. “Being at the food bank it’s a different situation because I’ve never experienced this personally but I could have. It puts it into perspective.”
The struggle is real, according to Canada’s Food Price Report 2019, released by Dalhousie University and University of Guelph. The average Canadian family will spend $411 more on food in 2019 than in 2018, bringing the total cost of healthy food to $12,157 for the year.
In the new year, students will be looking more closely at food insecurity.
“I want them to be thinking bigger about what’s going on around us and how can we help,” said Bangham.
The response she has gotten from the class so far has left her feeling optimistic for the future.
“This is the next generation and the kids really do care, and they have more to offer,” she said. “They’re trying to do their part. It’s up to us to educate them to see the bigger picture.”