City and school officials turned out to see the new IKEA-built student kitchen at the Burbank Community Day School (BCDS) on Tuesday, September 8. Visitors sampled an extensive menu made entirely by the school’s students, who included produce and herbs grown in the BCDS student garden in the recipes.
BUSD Board of Education member Armond Aghakhanian and past school board members Elena Hubbell and Debbie Kukta (current City Treasurer), BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill, Assistant Superintendent Tom Kissinger, Director Of Secondary Education John Paramo, Director of Student Services Brian O’Rourke and City of Burbank Councilmembers Emily Gabel-Luddy and Will Rogers joined a group of school staff and community volunteers to unveil the new kitchen.
“Burbank Community Day School would like to thank IKEA for choosing our school to receive The Life Improvement Challenge Grant in the amount of $10,000.00,” commented Principal Christine Krohn. “IKEA has worked on many wonderful projects in our community and enriched many lives, and now our students will have a chance to benefit from IKEA’s generosity.”
“Our wish was to build a kitchen so that our students can learn to cook what they have grown in their garden, reinforces the student’s potential and create possible career paths,” she went on to say. “This project was completed on July 28, 2015, just in time for the first day of school.”
The students at Burbank Community Day School are seventh- through twelfth-grade at-risk youth who have been moved from the traditional middle school or high school setting and placed at the school for attendance, behavior issues, grades or may be on probation or coming from a camp or in a group home, according to Krohn, “This is a second chance for our students to get back on track, make their lives better and graduate on time.”
“We strive not only to educate our students but get them involved in something that they can use throughout their lives, so we started a garden,” added Krohn. “These students respond better to hands-on activities instead of sitting in a class listening to a lecture.”
“The garden gives them the time to experience nature and develop life skills. Most of these students do not comprehend where their food comes from and what it takes to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables,” she continued. “So each one of our students is assigned a bed to plant whatever they want. In the end, their care produces organic crops that nourish their self-esteem and bodies.”
Krohn points to developing opportunities access to the new IKEA-built student kitchen brings, including engagement with other groups in Burbank.
“We have already started working with our District Food Service Department, selling them both non-edible flowers and edible flowers for their school events,” she mentioned.
“We have partnered with Burbank High School providing their culinary arts program with herbs. In exchange, the Culinary Arts teacher has agreed to have some of our students come after school to her class a couple times a semester to cook in a proper culinary environment.”
A group of senior citizens works with BCDS students in the garden, and once every two weeks, teaches students how to cook various dishes.
“It is amazing how good our students are when it comes to cooking. A lot of them have to cook at home for their siblings and/or themselves, so what a wonderful way to teach these students about health, nutrition, food preparation and also culinary skills that they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” added Krohn.
“Most of these students are not college bound, they just want to get a job to survive, and be able to make a living,” she said. “IKEA’s generous donation expands the opportunities for our students to excel and succeed creatively in school and in life, as they pursue career and job opportunities that would otherwise not be available to them, or they wouldn’t have even considered.”
“IKEA wants to play a part in creating a better life for the many people, as well as communities touched by IKEA business,” said Peggy Kovacic, Interior Designer at IKEA Burbank. “While IKEA works on a global level to improve the lives of people in developing countries, IKEA also wants to be a good neighbor in its local communities”
“The IKEA Life Improvement Co-worker challenge is one way to make a difference closer to home,” she explained. “IKEA US started the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge in 2011, and since then over 120 local charities have received over $1 million in IKEA products, design expertise and manpower.”
All the dishes at Tuesday’s event were made by BCDS students and included bacon and cheese quiche, sliced cucumbers topped with shrimp and avocado, mini pizzas, toothpick skewers with mozzarella, salami and tomatoes, fruit spring rolls with rice, strawberries, peaches, oranges and plum jelly, homemade strawberry ice cream, jalapeno hummus, carrot cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, guacamole, parmesan cups with caesar salad, salsa and pesto.
Drinks included homemade lemonade, mint iced tea and water with orange slices.
“The Burbank Community Day School Garden, Kitchen and Culinary Arts Program underscore the importance of persistence, community collaboration and giving what you have,” commented Sharon Springer, a longtime community volunteer at the school, who also lives and works in Burbank. “In the beginning there was a weed patch, followed by putting one foot in front of the other to get where we are today: a kitchen and culinary arts program at BCDS.”
“In the beginning, we didn’t think of a kitchen. It’s been a natural evolution. Every contribution has been important and appreciated,” she added. “Every dollar, every pulled weed, planted seed, pruned branch, every donation in kind, every word of encouragement and show of support have made a difference.”
“The garden and kitchen open up opportunities that the students never knew existed,” Springer also said. “There are and have been artists, botanists, entomologists, contractors, grammarians (really!) and now budding chefs and nutritionists.”