“I got to know my mother and my father and they got to know me at the dinner table.” – Jake Gyllenhaal, The Edible Schoolyard Board Member (and Hollywood Heartthrob)
Forty years ago Alice Waters and her “equally idealistic friends” founded Chez Panisse, a small downstairs restaurant in Berkeley, California. The menu, much like that of any farm to table dinner party you’ve ever been to, varies nightly and builds itself around the ingredients at hand. It is seasonal, sustainably sourced, and organic. In 1971 the Mission of Chez Panisse was focused and attainable, and forty years later has not only yielded a successful restaurant and café, but also expanded to the Chez Panisse Foundation and, most recently, The Edible Schoolyard.
Alice Waters founded The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley in 1996. With a focus on high risk, inner city youth, the Edible Schoolyard is a hands-on approach to health, ecology, and sustainable food systems. Kids are producing their food from seed to table. They are planting, watering, harvesting, cleaning and cooking healthy, organic meals. In neighborhoods where fast food is often the only option, kale, collards, and goat cheese are part of their daily routine and diet.
This is particularly valuable as the label “high risk youth” is not singly due to the high crime neighborhoods where these kids live, but it also pertains to their health. As we see more children with adult health problems like high blood pressure and type-two diabetes, it becomes clear that growing and cooking healthy food should be basic to elementary and secondary education. As Waters recently said in a Today Show interview, “If they grow it, and they cook it, they want to eat it.”
Waters elaborates –“You can teach any subject in the garden or the kitchen.” Math, geography, chemistry, and health are all integrated heavily, and quite naturally, into the curriculum. As his or her sense of self-worth grows, students often take what they’ve learned outside of the The Edible Schoolyard and bring it to the family table.
On this week of Chez Panisse’s 40th Anniversary, we send congratulations to Alice Waters and The Chez Panisse Foundation for extending the focused and attainable mission and menu of a small Berkeley restaurant to the focused and attainable goal of providing an Edible Schoolyard for every kid.