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Ontario high-school teacher Paul Finkelstein, centre, takes students on yearly field trips to deepen their insights into the power of good food. The most recent outing took place this week at Webequie, a First Nations community 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, where students ate a freshly killed goose with bannock.
Ontario high-school teacher Paul Finkelstein, centre, takes students on yearly field trips to deepen their insights into the power of good food. The most recent outing took place this week at Webequie, a First Nations community 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, where students ate a freshly killed goose with bannock.

NOMINEE

Paul Finkelstein gives students an education in food Add to ...

Kids!

Eat your vegetables!

Boring.

Okay, so how about this?

Kids!

Eat your moose meat stew! You made it, after all!

Caught your attention, yet?

Well, it has certainly grabbed the attention of those teenagers lucky enough to learn about healthy eating first-hand from high-school teacher Paul Finkelstein.

In 2004, Finkelstein founded a culinary club inside Stratford Northwestern Secondary School in Stratford, Ont., where he teaches, operating it as an alternative to the cafeteria.

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A student-run eatery at school, The Screaming Avocado, prepares 200 hot meals daily in addition to healthy lunches served to a local elementary school two days a week.

The students make the meals themselves, learning from Finkelstein, a Best Health magazine recipe contributor, how to cook them from scratch, using fresh ingredients harvested from the organic garden housed in the school greenhouse made especially for the club.

Learning how to cook nutritious meals is no mean feat considering that many of Finkelstein’s students come from homes where parents don’t cook. They just reheat.

“Their parents have either lost the ability to cook or never had the skills,” says the 50-year-old married father of three who grew up in Toronto with fresh food always on the table.

“These students become cross-generational tools of change by connecting their families, friends and their own kids in the future to healthy food, the joy of cooking from scratch, and eating together as a family.”

Trained at the Stratford Chefs School and also at Queen’s University in Kingston, where he received his teaching degree, Finkelstein also takes students on yearly field trips to deepen their insights into the power of good food.

The most recent outing took place this week at Webequie, a First Nations community 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, where students ate a freshly killed goose with bannock.

Club members have also travelled to Italy, Japan and New York, among other far-flung culinary destinations.

In 2011, Finkelstein’s students went to the Governor-General’s Rideau Hall in Ottawa to work with chef Louis Charest, helping him cook for William and Kate during a royal visit.

Closer to home in Stratford, Finkelstein’s students interact with local farmers and other food producers in addition to visiting celebrity chefs, such as Michael Stadtlander and Jamie Kennedy, who share with them their knowledge and skills.

The upshot? Besides delicious home-cooked meals, the kids are hungry to pass on what they know to the next generation.

“My students become mentors by visiting elementary schools where they pass their knowledge to the younger students,” Finkelstein says. “Young people have the power to change their nutritional future. They just need the tools.”

Follow on Twitter: @Deirdre_Kelly

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