Right now there is burgeoning movement towards incorporating healthy food, gardening and environmental stewardship into the DC Public School curriculum. We have been involved in a few small projects over the years. Currently we are collaborating with new and old friends and colleagues and working on a couple school/ garden /health projects that we hope will be pilot programs that can be replicated throughout the country to holistically improve health of school children (more about all that as the projects develop).
Simultaneously The Healthy Schools Act of DC introduces exciting legislation that contains many important Farm to School initiatives, as well as other initiatives designed to improve the health and well-being of District school children and to “green” District schools.
At the end of last week there was a hearing for the Healthy Schools Act. Alice Waters wrote a statement in support of the act:
For over a decade, I have had the privilege to witness the extraordinary and undeniable effects of an edible education on children. The Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley runs a teaching garden and kitchen that are integrated into the curriculum of the school. Through the years, we’ve learned an incredible lesson: when children grow it and cook it, they will eat it. And not just eat, but enjoy themselves at the table with their classmates and teachers. Then they graduate, and extend these values about work and the environment into their community and out to the world.
We’re not alone in Berkeley! There are programs all over the country that are working to bring all children into a new relationship with food, and in each case- whether it be in New Orleans or Los Angeles- the resoundingly positive results are the same.
From our experience at the Edible Schoolyard, my colleagues and I now understand the qualities of our program that are key to its success. First, the interaction between the garden and the kitchen is profoundly important. When children see a seed transform from the soil and end up on their plate, they make the connection between nature and their own health. And, as with any case in education, the teaching staff plays a pivotal role. It is essential to have a dedicated garden and kitchen staff, and not just for the ensured maintenance of the land. These teachers connect the subjects the children are taking in school to the garden and kitchen classrooms. They are the stewards of a simultaneous education, one in which the planting of seeds breathes life into the math lesson, or the pounding of wheat enlivens the history class.
The Healthy Schools Act understands the whole vision of schools as guardians of our children’s health. Among other things, it sees that right there, in the middle of every school day, lie time and energy already devoted to the feeding of children. We have the power to turn that daily school lunch from an afterthought into a joyous education, a way of caring for our health, our environment, and our community. When this legislation takes effect in Washington, D.C., it will signal best practices to all of us and pave the way for our nation to follow suit.
Founder, Chez Panisse Foundation
Owner, Chez Panisse Café and Restaurant
March 26, 2010