Remembering the Edible Schoolyard

March 10th, 2008

Last week OrganicMania published a series of posts about “How to Get Organics and Healthier Foods into the Schools.” A comment from MamaBird led to today’s guest post, where she writes about her time teaching at a school with one of the nation’s most progressive school lunch programs. What else would one expect from Berkeley, California?

In my students’ minds, the crisp lettuce in the field we skipped through on our journey was just as fascinating as the computers that waited amidst the stacks of books at our local library. It was 1998, and most of the young men and women loping
past the garden had no access to computers at all (many had just arrived in the country). But it was the vegetables that held their attention. On a field trip with an English Language Learner class, I couldn’t help but marvel at the audible excitement and interest over the garden and its teen gardeners. Teacher Patti Rathwell got her students into King’s school kitchen routinely, brought food into the class to illustrate
everyday concepts, and the students’ families brought in delicacies representing cuisines from all over the world to mark special celebrations. Speaking over a dozen languages, the premium form of communication among our students was laughter,
gesture, and the anticipation of flavor.

In 1998, I was a student teacher from UC Berkeley’s MUSE Program apprenticed to two classrooms at Martin Luther King Middle School. The nascent Edible Schoolyard
program, started in 1996 by a collaboration between Chez Panisse and the school
(via the Chez Panisse Foundation), was thriving by the time I landed at King. As I recall, the kids called it the “Peace Garden” and every one of the kids I taught, from
middle school second language learners ranging from 6th to 8th grade, to the 8th
graders in my humanities class, was itching to get their hands dirty. You could almost see the infusion of energy into the crops. These kids were fascinated with what their peers were creating, with their bare hands and brains. They longed to be longed to be outdoors, to work with the soil. But even more, they longed to be in the kitchen, chopping and slicing and mixing and…eating! I’ve never seen such a worthwhile channeling of teen squirm in all my life.

I’ve been thinking about the Edible Schoolyard recently, as I face the reality of
public school lunches here in DC for my daughter and her friends. I’m heartened by the fact that Berkeley, and other schools like Wisconsin’s Appleton Central Alternative School (ACAS), have adopted programs harnessing the power of
delicious and satisfying food to improve not just health but performance. Lunch
Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
, by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes, is a riveting book that chronicles success stories like the Edible Schoolyard and
Appleton’s ACAS, while giving parents concrete suggestions: healthy recipes and contact info for organizations working to effect change in lunch programs.

One school that’s crafted a school environment rich in healthy food and a focus on physical education is Appleton’s ACAS (which banned vending machines and instituted fruit-and-vegetable rich breakfasts and lunches). Appleton has quantifiably documented the impact of providing “nonchemically processed foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.” Improvements seen include: more focused on-task behavior, increased cognitive development,
fewer health concerns, fewer discipline problems, better attendance, and better nutrition outside of school.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of our schoolchildren (many of whom rely on school
breakfast and lunch programs as their primary source of nutrition) got a side of nutrition education and sustainable agriculture with their salad bar lunch?
Where to look for more info about transforming your own school? Check
out the following organizations for ideas.

The Center for Ecoliteracy, Lunch Lessons, Better School Food, Food for Change, and Farm to School.

MamaBird from SurelyYouNest

Copyright 2008 MamaBird

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5 Responses to “Remembering the Edible Schoolyard”

  1. marguerite manteau-rao on March 10, 2008 12:36 pm

    Thanks Lynn for this activist post. I can’t think of a better place to start educating children, than school lunches. I was reminded of Michael Pollan’s books. He is from Berkeley also.

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com

    I think I need to make another trip to Berkeley. I sure have a lot more “friends” out there now than I did years ago! Thanks for stopping by, Marguerite! — Lynn

  2. Sue on March 11, 2008 7:27 am

    Hey MamaBird, that was a fantastic and interesting piece that you blogged. I also appreciate all the links to resources which you have provided. Half the battle is finding out where to go to get information. You inspire us to think small garden in our backyard for an ‘edible house’ concept.

    I also wanted to relay that the other day my 3rd grader came home with all kinds of ideas of how to reuse items in our house instead of throwing them away. Turns out that at his school Wednesdays are no trash days. So the goal is that items must be reused or recycled. It may not be healthy food that this school is embracing today, but I’m really excited about the Wednesday program and so is my son. Perhaps I’ll try this at home too.

    Thanks for sharing, Sue! And thanks again to MamaBird for that great piece! — Lynn

  3. Zora Panama on February 4, 2010 5:21 am

    Kudos from one braniac to another. :)

  4. Green Minds Unite at Blogher ‘10 | Urban Gardens | Unlimited Thinking For Limited Spaces on August 9, 2010 8:38 am

    [...] OrganicMania is Lynn Anne Miller’s blog devoted to, as her site explains,”cutting through the hype and figuring out when it makes sense to lay out the big bucks for organic and green purchases, and a place to find out how to save money while going green.” They’ve posted about one of my favorites, The Edible Schoolyard. [...]

  5. Nichol Osequera on February 12, 2011 9:44 pm

    Alright, what a nice beginning however i’m going to consider that a bit more. Will let you know what else i have found.

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