Okanagan College Culinary Arts students help take a bite out of food insecurity, one apple at a time
As the Okanagan days start to get shorter and orchardists wrap up their harvest for the year, Culinary Arts students at the College’s Kelowna campus are busy transforming apples into healthy snacks for the community.
Earlier in the fall semester, the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project (OFTP) approached the College’s Culinary Arts team with an idea: could culinary classes somehow help process apple donations into snacks, going into backpacks for local students in need?
The answer was a resounding yes.
With some creative thought on how to best meet curriculum requirements and please palates, Culinary Arts instructor Kelsey Oudendag identified applesauce as the best item to start with. Using it in a variety of applications, students worked to peel, core, and slice apples to make the sauce as well as into apple chips. From there, they went on to use the sauce in breakfast items such as cookies and granola as well as fruit leather.
“It definitely wasn’t difficult to fit this project into the curriculum,” said Oudendag, “we use the apples in so many different ways, from teaching students how to use tools for slicing and coring to utilizing them in our different subject areas like breakfast, baking, and fruit preservation.”
Lucie Bardos, the project coordinator for the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project, has helped facilitate the project with Oudendag alongside Food for Thought.
“This is a unique collaboration that builds upon the existing partnership we have with Food for Thought over the past few seasons,” she said. “We typically deliver fresh produce directly to Food for Thought for their backpack and breakfast programming. In this case, Okanagan College got involved to help transform the fresh apples into products before the fruit goes to Food for Thought.”
She said, “this adds some additional variety to the food donation and an opportunity for culinary arts students to get involved in a food insecurity initiative.”
The Okanagan Fruit Tree Project functions as a registered charity, operating in the Central and South Okanagan. Orchardists and farmers contact the OFTP and a harvest is organized with the help of volunteers. Fruit is then donated to community partners like Food for Thought right away or taken to cold storage where partners can continue to pick up fruit once the harvest is over.
Food for Thought runs both the backpack and breakfast programs in the Central Okanagan region, providing meals for students at elementary, middle and secondary schools. Since the onset of COVID-19, nearly 500 backpacks per week are distributed on Fridays throughout School District No. 23 and the breakfast program provides nearly 3000 meals directly to schools. The backpacks are designed to cover food needs for the weekend for the student and their family.
For a photo gallery showcasing students transforming the apples into snacks. To learn more about the work the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project is doing, go to the organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Details on Food for Thought, running throughout the Central Okanagan.
This isn’t the only initiative by OC students that’s helping to feed those in need and eliminate food waste in the region. Earlier this year, Enactus OC students from Vernon adapted their award-winning FruitSnaps to continue to benefit the community during the pandemic.