(Charlottesville, VA) On Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 10 a.m. Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) will receive $5,000 in grant money from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation’s Environmental Education Stewardship Grants Program.

CATEC will use the grant for its new learning space, CATEC Culinary Commons, a garden area that will include six raised garden beds, a greenhouse, an outdoor dining area, and an indoor hydroponics garden. The organic produce grown in the gardens will be used by CATEC’s Culinary Arts program.

“Like our food bus, Technical Eats, Culinary Arts is the hub of an exciting interdisciplinary project,” said CATEC Director Stephanie Carter. “These experiences would not be possible without the generosity of philanthropic companies like Dominion Energy.”

This project is a cross-curricular learning experience that will benefit students across the CATEC building. The Culinary Arts program will work with the Building Trades and Electrical programs to create the space. Building Trades students will build picnic tables, garden beds, and greenhouse, with Culinary Arts students working alongside them to complete the projects. Electrical students will wire grow lights for the greenhouse and assemble the indoor hydroponic system.

Culinary Arts students will utilize the indoor and outdoor gardening systems for planting and harvesting, not only for the experience of seeing food production from start to finish, but also compare different indoor and outdoor growing systems.

“These gardens and this curriculum represent the future of farm-to-table,” said CATEC Culinary Arts Instructor Chef Carol Robbs. “CATEC will be able to elevate our students’ level of understanding of food and food production from seed to plate. It will be an amazing journey.”

Additionally, Culinary Arts students will compost scraps to use as fertilizer for future gardens, creating a truly organic gardening experience. Students will be able to analyze natural methods of fertilization and pest control, focus on native plants and biodiversity, and study water conservation and soil erosion. The garden will enrich the educational opportunities of students in several programs and provide culinary arts students with a true farm-to table cooking experience. CATEC’s long-range plan is to incorporate its Veterinary Science program into the space to include chicken coops.

Dominion Energy has awarded $1.6 million in 2019 Environmental Education and Stewardship grants through its philanthropic arm, the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, to 135 organizations working to improve natural spaces or teach about the environment.

“It’s a privilege to support our communities in their efforts to provide environmental education,” said Felix Sarfo Kantanka, Jr., External Affairs Manager with Dominion Energy. “CATEC’s Culinary Commons will help provide students with hands-on experience to learn about environmentally sustainable food production, and we’re pleased to support this exciting project.”

Culinary Commons will arrive at just the right time as the Virginia Department of Education pushes for school nutritional programs to increase local food in its meal planning. With no breakfast or lunch currently offered at CATEC, the school hopes to one day be able to offer carry out meal options for students as they arrive or leave the building. The tranquil space will be utilized not only by Culinary Arts students, but also by CATEC staff, CATEC Adult Education courses, and community programs. In the next year, CATEC hopes to offer a gardening summer camp for local students that will use the Commons as an outdoor classroom.