Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea

Highlighted points from Alice Water’s book Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea:

  • City of Berkeley’s public schools rank among the poorest in the United States.
  • “By the time a young girl has finished a delicious meal and returned her table scraps to the garden soil, and gone back to planting and harvesting with her science class, she is well on her way to understanding the cycle of life, from seed to table and back again – absorbing almost by osmosis the relationship between the health of our bodies, our communities, and the natural world.”
  • The cafeteria at MLK Middle School in Berkeley has been closed for years before the Edible Schoolyard project began, because the school’s population had doubled and the facility was too small.
  • The only food the children could buy on campus came from a small building, parked in the middle of the asphalt, which sold soda and something called a “walking taco” (bag of corn chips with a beef-tomato paste poured on top) – “which is as perfect a symbol of a broken culture as I can imagine.”
  • For the kitchen and garden to have any chance of becoming real – there had to be a way for the teachers to teach
  • Middle school is a very hard age group to start with – not the most expressive, very concerned with fitting in and avoiding embarrassment, nobody wants to let on if they like something.
  • It goes against a kid’s every instinct to eat something he or she can’t identify.
  • “Aesthetic beauty can be a kind of medicine.”
  • Garden director believed children should participate from the very start – only in this would they feel so proud of what they had accomplished that they would feel forever connected to the garden – this attachment might infect other children and possibly future generations of schoolchildren.
  • “They would intuit something of themselves in the very soil, and it would draw them in.”
  • “If we don’t see what we’re used to seeing, we don’t see (tacos) and we don’t eat.”
  • “No matter how picky kids are, they are infinitely more likely to eat food they’ve made with their own hands.”
  • “The lives these children led had almost no room for that greatest of childhood necessities, free play.”
  • Important to allow children to find joy in their work, even if it means not doing the job precisely how they were told or not working quite as efficiently.
  • Children want to eat the food they personally have made – children’s taste can be very surprising – they are more likely to enjoy something they created with their own hands.
  • Making a kitchen a apart of the life of a school – in the way a home kitchen can anchor the life of a family.
  • Influence of a teacher or mentor in a young student’s life, at a critical time, can have life-changing effects.
  • Something infectious about the idea of an Edible Schoolyard – hopeful and uplifting notion, it takes hold of people, makes people want to help out, a way of believing in a world where such a thing could actually happen.
  • Fundamental belief: the power of the table to bring people together and give them a place to commune.
  • Another core belief: “Beauty is not a luxury; it is a means of lifting the human spirit and of giving richness to everyday life.”
  • Children are extremely porous to the natural world.
  • No two edible schoolyards can be alike.
  • Core mission: “To awaken every American child’s senses toward a new relationship with food, one in which deliciousness comes first and food health and well being are the happy result.”
  • Learning to cook good simple meals and share them – “the bedrock pleasures and values on which our  agrarian democracy was founded, and they remain the key link between our private selves, the health of our bodies and our planet, and each American’s power to influence positive change.”
  • Transformation of school lunch around edible education can’t happen just by lecturing kids about nutrition or adding salad bars to cafeteria – edible education is an experience, an integration of a school garden, kitchen, and cafeteria into the core of the teaching mission.
  • The next generation must know that “we vote for the kind of world we want every time we choose what to eat.”
  • Public school lunch presents an enormous opportunity: “Right there, in the middle of every child’s school day, driven by his own hunger and his own taste, lies all this time and energy set aside and devoted to food. When people realize that we have the power to turn school lunch into something far more than an unhealthy afterthought, or a way of filling ourselves at the lowest price, with no thought to consequences, it’s difficult to argue against spending the money, no matter what it might cost.”
  • Principles of Edible Education:
    • Food is an Academic Subject
    • School Provides Lunch for Every Child
    • Schools Support Farms
    • Children Learn by Doing
    • Beauty is a Language

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