Many schools like to plant a garden. Even better: an edible schoolyard!
The Edible Schoolyard is a one-acre garden and kitchen classroom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. It is a project of the Chez Panisse Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by chef and author Alice Waters.
The Edible Schoolyard is different from other school gardens, and not just because of the partnership with a world-famous chef. The Edible Schoolyard began as a cover crop with once-monthly student participation, but now it is a whole acre, and each student participates in 12-30 sessions, depending on grade level. Students enjoy eating from the Edible Schoolyard, but the project does not aim to supply the entire school with lunch each day. For that, look to Alice Waters’ School Lunch Initiative.
In 2004, the Chez Panisse Foundation partnered with Berkeley Unified School District to change what the students eat at school and how they learn about food. After three years, they have transformed the school lunch program. The students now enjoy fresh, healthy, local foods made from scratch, with seasonal ingredients. You can read about their success at School Lunch Reform. Be sure to click and read about their accomplishments and lessons learned.
If you are ever in Berkeley, visit Chez Panisse and the lunch eatery, Chez Panisse Café. It’s best if you can make a reservation—people book a month in advance.
During summer vacation, my family and I realized we were “in the neighborhood,” so to speak. We walked in to Chez Panisse and the place was packed. The most gracious manager in the world, Renee, invited us to wait for a cancellation. Lunch was worth the wait! The ingredients were fresh and flavorful, the recipes inventive. I had a strawberry sherbet packed with more strawberry flavor than I ever thought possible.
You can bring Alice Waters to your home with her cookbooks:
Celebrate Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary the weekend of August 26 and 27th. There will be multiple events in the Berkeley area, mostly fundraisers aimed at increasing awareness of Edible Schoolyard. If you can’t make it to Berkeley, perhaps you can attend one of the Eating for Education dinners at restaurants around the country.