School Gardens: An All-Around Great Idea
in.gredients‘ writer-type, marketer, and idea connoisseur
At age 23, school cafeterias aren’t buried too deep in my past. My memories of soft-serve ice cream(ish), mystery meats, and squishy rectangles resembling pizza are still relatively fresh – obviously, I was the rebel who brought brown-bagged prunes and brussel sprouts to eat everyday.
Looking back, each of my schools’ cafeterias were really just behind-the-scenes mass production facilities. No one knew what they were eating, what was in it, where it came from – and at the same time no one really cared. As it turns out, this sense of separation and apathy is true at most schools in America, too. But things are starting to change.
Yesterday we learned of The Edible Schoolyard, an educational project at Berkeley, California’s Martin Luther King Middle School that transformed a vacant city lot into a school garden of sorts (video here). The brain child of renowned chef and humanitarian Alice Waters, the garden gives students the opportunity to learn first-hand where real food comes from, how to grow it, and how to understand its nutritional values. Waters told Nowness in a recent interview that “when the children are involved in the growing and preparing of food, they always want to eat it. I think this is the way to turn around this crisis in the nation’s health. If children have the chance, they all fall in love with real food.”
At home in Austin, a similar project called Cooking with Connally is blooming at Connally High School on the Northside, where plans have been approved for the “CHS Teaching Garden” (see graphic below).
We enjoyed touring the site this week – great stuff! The Teaching Garden will be maintained by the students of Chef Mike Erickson, who teaches culinary courses at Connally, as well as any other students or classes that want to be involved. The students of Humberto Pérez – who heads Cougar Productions, Connally’s broadcasting program – have already signed on, and plan to produce 10 cooking shows! Connally’s culinary students have already been honored at the Texas State Capitol; the school’s culinary program is participating in two programs that originated from First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.
We’re thrilled projects like this are happening at schools around the country. The more today’s kids learn about the importance of real food, the more likely they are to ensure a healthy future for themselves and the market.
In the meantime, our educational garden is still a field of dead grass – but thanks to the folks at nearby Homewood Heights Community Garden, we should have the garden ready for spring planting, and plenty of educational opportunities for schools in our community!