Chuck Hughes works with local school children at Garden2Table. Photo by Susan Bubak.

Food Network celebrity chef Chuck Hughes spent his day off at U of G’s food lab, where he gave cooking lessons to a group of Grade 7 students from St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic School. Host of Chuck’s Day Off, Hughes showed off his culinary skills on Nov. 10 as part of U of G’s Garden2Table, a student-led program that invites local school children to visit the on-campus organic garden, where they can pick fresh produce and learn how to cook in the food lab.

Garden2Table received a $10,000 Real Food Grant from Hellmann’s, which awarded a total of $110,000 to 24 healthy food initiatives across Canada this year.

“The main focus is to get kids to cook,” says Hughes. “It’s a life skill that pays off dividends. Eating is so important. It brings us together.”

Poor eating habits that start in childhood often continue into adulthood and can lead to health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. That’s why it’s important for kids to learn how to prepare healthy meals.

Hughes’s mother taught him how to cook. “She loved to cook real food,” he says. “There was never anything frozen at our house.”

Too busy to cook? That’s no excuse, says Hughes, adding that it’s just as easy to make a meal from scratch as to heat up a frozen dinner.