Alice Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1995–96 with a food garden at King Middle School. Twenty-five years later, it is the hub of a worldwide movement.
School gardens have a history that stretches back centuries. They became especially popular in the U.S. during the Progressive Era that started in the 1890s. But it is unlikely that they were ever as well integrated into the curriculum as what Alice Waters envisioned and made happen through the Chez Panisse Foundation, later renamed the Edible Schoolyard Foundation.
The Edible Schoolyard model includes a kitchen classroom where students learn how to prepare and eat the food they have been growing, as well as its scientific, historical and cultural contexts. In a typical year, 1500 visitors tour the garden and classroom. Educators from other places are invited to Summer Trainings (presented online to an expanded audience in 2020).
The Edible Schoolyard Network, launched in 2012, now includes more than 5600 related projects throughout the U.S. and in 75 countries in six continents. The Edible Schoolyard Project now has a staff of 17, a 7-member board, and a 46-member celebrity-studded Advisory Board including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Wendell Berry, Jake Gyllenhaal (at left), Bette Midler, Robert Redford, and Meryl Streep.
The influence of the project has contributed to Alice Waters receiving several honors:
• the Wall Street Journal’s Humanitarian Innovator of the Year (2013),
• Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2014)
• A National Humanities Award presented by President Obama (2015)
Here in Berkeley, offshoots of the Edible Schoolyard led to:
• gardens at other schools
• a central kitchen providing locally sourced, healthy breakfasts and lunches throughout Berkeley’s public schools
• a move toward “school-supported agriculture,” procuring supplies directly from farmers and ranchers who “take care of the land and their workers”
• the first school district in the nation to adopt a School Food Policy (see School Food: Reminiscences of Tom Bates)
“Alice Waters is a revolutionary who wants to change the world through food. In the ’70s, when she created her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, American cuisine was considered an oxymoron. Alice set out to change that, persuading farmers, foragers and fishermen to raise fresh local food for Chez Panisse. That kick-started the farmers’-market movement and proved that American produce could equal anyone’s. Insisting that good food was a right, not a privilege, she then turned her focus to our children. Alice’s belief that we should teach food in schools was once considered quixotic, but her Edible Schoolyard Project pioneered a national movement. “
—Ruth Reichl, in Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People,” April 23, 2014
By Ann Harlow