Alice Waters: Beyond the edible schoolyard

Published in FSD Update

alice waters

When Alice Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1995, her vision extended further than planting a garden behind her daughter’s Berkeley, Calif., middle school. “I didn’t want it done halfway,” she told attendees at the Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference held this week at University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “I had a vision of what an edible education could be; a way to integrate food and agriculture into every part of the curriculum.”

Getting parents, teachers and the administration on board was a challenge, Waters admitted, but she invited groups to her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, for monthly dinner meetings, “and it worked like a charm. When you try to feed people an idea, if it’s really tasty, they will eat it up,” said Waters.

Short of gathering the administration and board of education around the table of a legendary restaurant, how can you advocate for a holistic edible education in your school? Waters shared three ideas to take things further:

  • Start by writing up a document with a timeline, and enlist students, teachers and administrators to take a piece of the project. Waters related how Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, created a contract for sustainability for the university, weaving food and agriculture into every course. Every chancellor signed it, and the UC Global Food Initiative now is in the works.
  • Propose ways to weave food and agriculture into every subject area. With the goal of creating a great veggie pizza for school lunch, Waters suggested that upper grades can research pizza ovens in Roman times in a history class, and the art class can talk about design and solicit ideas for building one. Students in an English class can write and negotiate contracts with workmen to cost out the oven.
  • Make school lunch an academic subject. Turn the cafeteria into a classroom, educating students about the source of their food, global cuisines, nutrition and more.

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