IMG_0329On the afternoon of Thursday May 1, 2014, ten club kids were crowded around a brand new kitchen island. They were making gingerbread squares and each was vying for a chance to add an ingredient or stir the mixture. It was their first Kitchen Club since major renovations to BGCBig’s West Club. Though they didn’t voice their excitement, it showed through their smiles and concentration as the Club Staff explained the next step in the recipe.

IMG_0007Eight weeks before, instead of an island, there was a large table in the centre of the kitchen. It took up unnecessary space and was so wide that the kids had to reach across the table to be involved in the food preparation. It was also much lower than a typical counter, forcing Club Staff and kids to bend over to work on the surface.

But now, they have a brand new island that’s the right height, is non-porous, and even has extra storage underneath.

The kitchen island, which has space for up to 10 kids along one side, was just one component of renovations to West Club thanks to the Healthy Kitchens Healthy Kids grant through President’s Choice Children’s Charity (PCCC). PCCC donated $500,000 to Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada so clubs across Alberta could upgrade their kitchens, purchase appliances, and ensure safe food handling. BGCBigs’ Kinsmen and Tweddle clubs also received renovations through the grant.

With the funds, West Club was also able to completely redo the kitchen with new a sink, dishwasher, fridge, and freezer and replace all of the old concrete flooring with stronger linoleum. Kinsmen and Tweddle received new more energy efficient appliances as well.

Kitchen Club, which takes place at West every Tuesday for the teens and every Thursday for the kids, focuses on healthy eating and getting kids involved in the creation of fun and healthy snacks. They learn how to read a recipe, measure ingredients, and safely work the tools in the kitchen.

“It’s one of our most popular programs,” says Janice Gargas, Community Programs Facilitator at West Club. “We always have all 10 of our spots filled, and the kids look forward to it all week. To have a new kitchen with the proper working space means that the kids can get even more learning and fun out of the program.”

Most importantly, the Club Staff ensure that everything the kids get to make in the kitchen is healthy. Not only are the kids excited to be involved in creation of healthy food, but they are also learning to enjoy eating it too.
With the floors and new kitchen, the West Club feels much more welcoming and bright. And according to Amy Rozak, Community Programs Supervisor (West), that has really helped the kids have an increased sense of pride in their Club. “These renovations were so important. When you have something new and clean and bright you have a sense of pride and you want to keep it that way.”

IMG_0281The renovations were also crucial for improved food standards and food handling practices. The brand new fridge and freezer, which are both gigantic, increase the Club’s ability to prepare healthy meals for the kids – which are in great demand; often kids will stay at the Club specifically for dinner. The commercial grade appliances means the Club Staff can  more efficiently plan, order, and prepare food.

“All the kids like doing dishes now because they get to use the big sink and spray their dishes,” Amy laughs.  “And because there’s more room in the kitchen, we can have more kids in there to help with clean up after dinner.”

Overall, the kids at West Club are very excited about the improvements to their Club and the staff and volunteers at BGCBigs are extremely grateful that PCCC helped us make these improvements to our Clubs.

Over 800 kids attend the West, Kinsmen, and Tweddle Clubs and those kitchens are necessary to serve over 12,200 snacks and 10275 meals. With the renovations, the clubs are better able provide healthy meals and healthy snacks while engaging kids and youth in learning about healthy eating.

This is another way that BGCBigs works with our community to create healthy solutions and give children the tools and supports they need to be successful. We are incredibly grateful to PCCC for choosing to support the children, youth and families who attend our West, Kinsmen, and Tweddle Clubs.

Click here to view the before and after pictures!

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