Two Eden Valley cooks are working in new digs now that the Chief Jacob Bearspaw School’s kitchen received a much-needed facelift.
Crews worked over the Easter break to renovate the K-12 school kitchen in the Eden Valley Reserve.
The school received $64,000 from the Gate1 Foundation. The funds paid for the renovation and new appliances to better suit the needs of the school’s 140 students. The U.S.-based foundation supports building and repairing schools and other facilities for children around the world.
“I like this new kitchen better than the old kitchen because it was too small, too crowded,” said Nancy Lefthand, who has been cooking for Chief Jacob Bearspaw School with sister Alvina Lefthand since it opened 18 years ago.
“It was really hard to make food because it was really small.”
The sisters prepare breakfast and lunch every school day, offering students a variety of food selections including fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, chicken wraps, tacos, bannock and stew.
After years of dealing with a broken dishwasher, undersized sinks that clogged frequently and crowded surroundings, the women are glad to finally cook in a more workable environment.
“There’s more space and everything is new,” said Lefthand. “We really enjoy it.”
Vice-principal Robbie Gordon said when Chief Jacob Bearspaw School was built in 1998 the kitchen was meant to serve as a canteen to heat food and serve snacks, rather than provide hot meals to 100 plus students.
“When other staff would have to help out in there we couldn’t believe that they do what they do in that environment,” he said of Nancy and Alvina Lefthand.
“They made the most of it, but we felt bad for them.”
“Space was definitely an issue, as was storage and equipment,” he said. “We knew that we needed to provide a bigger, safer and better environment.”
The space issue was solved during the renovation when a wall that separated the eating area and kitchen was removed and replaced with a moveable wall. This provided another 14 square feet of space in the kitchen, Gordon said.
“It’s made a huge difference,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Gate1 Foundation.”
Barry Crane, the school’s maintenance worker, redesigned the kitchen and organized workers to complete the project, which he says was long overdue.
“The original kitchen was really run down,” he said. “It was mouldy. It was just disgusting.”
For 13 days over the Easter break, Crane, two custodial staff and two youths set to work doing a full demolition and rebuild.
“We opened up the wall to expose the cafeteria to the kitchen so we could increase the working space,” he said. “To see the smiles on those ladies’ faces when they came in on opening day was well worth it.”
The kitchen is now equipped with stainless steel countertops, a commercial grade dishwashing system, large sinks with a commercial grade sprayer, new flooring, a stainless steel commercial fridge, two stoves, new cupboards, a new ventilation system and a movable island.
Crane said one of the biggest improvements to the kitchen was replacing the household dishwasher with a commercial one.
“For the last seven years they used Styrofoam plates for every meal,” he said. “They had dishes but, they had them put away because they couldn’t wash them. Now they have the ability to do a full load of dishes in 90 seconds just like any commercial grade kitchen.”
Crane said he stretched the money as far as he could by training some Eden Valley residents to install the linoleum flooring and was able to save money to replace the Plexiglass around the reception area with tempered glass.