What’s cooking? 

Whistler students, youth, learn to cook, eat healthily

By Vivian Moreau

Whistler schools and staff housing facilities don’t need any encouragement from the province to instill good eating habits — they already have policies in place to restrict junk food and promote healthy edibles.

Recently the provincial government drafted new policies aimed to promote a healthier population, including banning smoking in all indoor public spaces and phasing out junk food in schools. But Whistler schools and staff housing already have measures in place to promote healthy eating.

Spring Creek Community School doesn’t allow vending machines in its building, but it does have a lunch program twice a week, says principal Gerri Galloway. The school also prohibits nuts on the premises and doesn’t have any plans to install vending machines.

Myrtle Philip elementary students do have access to vending machines filled with juices and pop in the community end of the building, but only after 3 p.m. says principal Sharon Broatch.

“They can’t use the machines between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. because I’m not about to stand there and police that what they’re choosing is juice,” she said.

The school also has a lunch program twice a week, with pizza and sushi offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Hot dog days were phased out about five years ago, Broatch said.

Whistler Secondary School has three vending machines: two contain juices and bottled water, a third has chocolate bars and bags of chips. Principal Bev Oakley said students and parents protested when attempts were made to phase out all junk food three years ago. A compromise was reached by phasing out pop from the machines — which fund supplies like athletic uniforms for school teams — and bringing in a greater supply of healthy drinks. Oakley said initial concerns that sales would decline when juice and water replaced pop went unfounded.

“We were wondering what that would do to profits, but it was interesting to note that our profits actually went up when we put juice in our machines,” Oakley said.

Parents also volunteered to start up a lunch program that runs five days a week and provides 150 meals a day, ranging from chili on Mondays to macaroni and cheese on Friday.

Cooking classes for Whistler-Blackcomb employees will continue this winter at staff housing on Glacier Drive. Taught by local chef Karen Kay, the bi-weekly free evening class accommodates about eight participants and teaches them how to cook healthy meals on a minimal budget.

“We’ll probably start up with a Mexican night,” Kay said, adding that vegetarian dishes are the program’s focus. “We’re working on how to teach them to cook healthy, and economically beans and grains are the cheapest way to go but a lot of them don’t know how to cook with them.”

Kay recently applied for a provincial grant through Directorate of Agencies for School Health for new cutting boards and knives for the classes, which are sponsored by Whistler Community Services Society and Whistler-Blackcomb.

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