Edible Schoolyard Academy (ES Part I)

Before I plunge into all that I learned, let me explain the basics of the Edible Schoolyard (ES.)  It is a project started 20 years ago by Chef Alice Waters at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California.

IMG_6584

It has a one-acre garden…

IMG_6388

IMG_6545

with a beautiful central teaching space: straw bales in a ring under a ramada with kiwi vines…

IMG_6360

…a small but efficiently run greenhouse with timed irrigation….

IMG_6366

IMG_6544

….a compost row, when these very hot piles are turned every two weeks, resulting in finished compost in 8…

IMG_6357

 

IMG_6358

…a well-organized tool shed (more on that later)…

IMG_6355

…outdoor oven…

IMG_6394

…and much more (veggies, flowers, fruit and nut trees, olive grove, rainwater harvesting, etc.)

They also have a beautiful kitchen and cooking education building…

IMG_6542

…a peek inside (more on this later too)

IMG_6297

..all of which is based on Alice’s principles of an “edible education,” spelled out on the side of the building.

IMG_6507

Take a look at the jaw-dropping dining commons…

IMG_6541

…where we ate delicious things such as…

IMG_6539

This program is run by a team of garden managers and interns, head chef and cooking instructors, program administrators and office staff, Americorps volunteers, summer interns, and consultants, all of whom we met the first day of the Academy.  They run the Academy once a year, for about a 100 attendees, to share all of their secrets.

IMG_6318

St. Alice also spoke, emphasizing her big, audacious idea: a free, delicious, sustainable school lunch for every child in America.

IMG_6319

Then we broke into three cohorts, by region, and spent one full day on each rotation: garden, kitchen, and administration.  We also had panels on fundraising, the farm to school movement and school lunch reform and one night went out for an a-w-e-s-o-m-e dinner in Oakland at Pizzaola.  Our days were full–example of garden day below:

IMG_6333

My next four posts will talk about the Academy thematically, starting with one of Alice’s main principles: “Beauty is the language of care.”  Stay tuned….meanwhile, happy, fuzzy picture of me by the lovely, handmade ES banner.

IMG_6556

To the USDA and back again

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that we are in the middle of a USDA Farm to School planning grant.  As part of this grant, representatives from each of the funded districts went to D.C. for a two-day conference last week.

IMG_6436

Ashley, our consultant, me and Susi, Pathways Director in front of the US Department of Agriculture where our meeting was held

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan addressed our group at the Whitten Building.  In her remarks, she said three things I will remember.  One, everyone believes in the Farm to School concept:  kids get healthy food, and local economies are stimulated.  Two, despite the simplicity of the concept, the implementation is very difficult. (I just wrote about that here!)  Three, Farm to School is one of the things the USDA is truly excited about, having invested 4.5 million in this project this year alone. They told us repeatedly that as the first cohort of grant recipients, we are the ones pushing this movement forward, and they are looking forward to seeing what we do and how we do it.  We are grateful for their vision and support.

IMG_6439

To equip us with tools, we had presentations on subjects such as promoting food safety, procuring local food, and marketing our programs.  It was great stuff—kudos to all of the staff who made this possible.

IMG_6403

Our group is incredibly diverse.  A district with 200 students in South Dakota was represented (smaller than us!) as well as districts with dozens of schools and 50,000+ students .  We heard about efforts in sourcing local bison for burgers, introducing salad bars in a state that has never featured them before, and partnering with hometown NFL teams to promote good nutrition on campus. Some of our most valuable moments were chatting with our fellow grant recipients:  What are you doing? How are you doing it?  For example, we struck up a conversation with a group of folks during a break about school lunch vendors—turns out one of them is the star of the new documentary film “Cafeteria Man.”  (http://cafeteriaman.com)

We also got to do a few fun things like dine out at the ah-mazing “farm to table” restaurant Founding Farmers and have a private tour of the Food 1950-2000 exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

IMG_6430

The exhibit, which includes Julia Child’s kitchen, has a long dining table in the middle of the room. On “Lazy Susans” running down the middle of the table, discussion questions and information was presented on the topic of “food pyramids” over time and across cultures. These topics will change, and next up is “school lunch.”

Our White House garden tour was cancelled (sequester!), and so I didn’t get the chance to ask Michelle out to coffee to talk about gardening, parenting, the challenge of being married to busy men, etc.  The upside was that I had some extra time to tack on a breakfast, stroll to the Mall and connect with dear D.C. friends.  Coming up next: the childrens’ garden at the National Botanic Gardens.

IMG_6467