Teaching Students about Real Food

Several initiatives are being proposed in an attempt at teaching students about real food and the impact their choices have.

| December 2004/January 2005

Teaching Kids about Real Food

School lunch is a serious matter for Alice Waters, a California chef, restaurateur and a longtime organic food advocate. In her newest school initiative, Waters has convinced the Berkeley Unified School District to include food as part of its academic curriculum for all students — kindergarten through 12th grade. Across the country, other advocates of fresh, locally grown and organic foods are following Waters’ lead and are working to improve their school lunches, too.

“I hope to reach every single child,” Waters told MOTHER EARTH NEWS about her newest California effort. “Because we’re talking not only about the health of our young people, but about our environment and culture here ... [The way we’re living — farming and eating — now] we are not only destroying our agriculture, but our culture.”

In July, Waters signed a contract with the Berkeley Unified School District to fund the curriculum effort through her Chez Panisse Foundation. Chez Panisse is the name of Waters’ Berkeley restaurant; she started the foundation in 1996 to help fund an “Edible Schoolyard” initiative at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Since then, her foundation has supported many other California projects that involve young people in growing, cooking and eating together.

The district-wide curriculum program is an outgrowth of the Edible Schoolyard effort, and next fall, the same middle school will be the first to implement the new curriculum. “We are going to take school lunch out of the fast food market and put it into academia,” Waters says. “We want to teach students about the consequences of the decisions they make about food, their relation to the land; we want to instill basic values. What we are doing is creating a new way of thinking about food. Making food an academic subject will give it legitimacy.”

By 2007, the new program will expand to two elementary schools, and by 2014, every school in the district will have its own garden and a new cafeteria serving locally produced, fresh, organic food. The interactive curriculum will teach 10,000 students about gardening and cooking, and food in relation to history, geography, even drama and language arts.

Waters also has been instrumental in setting up the Sustainable Food Project at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The organic menu served at one residential hall was so popular among the students last year that the university’s dining services decided to expand the program to the rest of the residential halls this year.

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