Alice Waters wants to change the world, starting with food. She has a passion for food, local organic whole foods, that is. She is most well known as Chef and Owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, as well as pioneering California Cuisine. Throughout her career, her goal has been to change the way the world thinks through food. Her beliefs are based on the idea that fresh, locally sourced, organic produce is not just for the elite. She has succeeded in changing the way America thinks about food and has continued to do so through projects such as: The Slow Food Movement and The Edible Schoolyard.
In 1995 The Edible Schoolyard program launched and has been a success ever since. By utilizing the empty space on school lots and fundraising for supplies, this program was able to create an edible garden within the school grounds. In the U.S the average school lunch costs close to $3.00 with less than a $1 per meal spent on the actual food. This garden helps to solve the largest problem associated with healthy eating in schools, the budget. This program has become the strong foundation needed to educate todays youth on food. So far they have helped over 7000 students with the hopes of expanding this program nationwide. Alice Waters said it best herself, “We need to start at school. By radically changing the way we think about feeding our children, we not only change the nutrition of individual children and the diet of all Americans in a generation, we also restore the health of the land and the essential values of this country.”
The Chez Panisse Foundation was launched the following year, with the goal of funding Edible Schoolyards in other areas. The foundation fully funds the Edible Schoolyard and has developed the School Lunch Initiative and Edible Schoolyard Affiliate Network. These programs, “seek to involve children directly in planting, gardening, harvesting, cooking, and eating, with the goal of illuminating the vital relationship of food to their lives and teaching them respect for each other and the planet” (starchefs.com). To begin a process of change for the better good, it only takes one. What better way to start, than with today’s youth?
In partnership with the Chez Panisse Foundation, the Center for Eco-literacy, and Berkeley Public Schools, the School Lunch Initiative was formed in 2004. This program was founded on the belief that if young people were involved in growing and cooking fresh, healthy food while learning about it in the classroom, they would be more likely to develop lifelong eating habits and values consistent with sustainable living (www.schoollunchinitiative.org/). By 2007, the entire Berkeley Unified School District was on board. The school district began serving nutritious, homemade, locally grown meals to the students in the cafeterias. They also began educating the students inside and outside of the classrooms on how their food choices impact their health and their environments. The schools also encouraged learning to cook, cooking at home with family, as well as sharing family meals together. (www.berkeleyschools.net)
In 2010 the Chez Panisse Foundation commissioned a study to see how likely the children involved in the School Lunch Initiative were to maintain these healthy living practices with their families outside of school. The study was based on students from 2006-2009 in the Berkeley Public Schools. The findings showed that children’s preferences for fruits and vegetables, increased by 35%. Waters hard work proved that when schools made healthy improvements to school lunch and taught children about food in the classroom, that they were more likely to continue this healthy lifestyle (schoollunchinitiative.com). We live in a world where our children may have shorter life spans than we do, by focusing on the health of our children we are changing our future for the better!