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Whole Kids Foundation is by its nature a collaborative organization. We work to amplify efforts that directly connect kids with the roots of their food, spark their curiosity and encourage healthier food choices. The goal of spotlight stories like this is to celebrate the successes of innovative partners and inspire more opportunities to grow healthy kids.
“When students come to The Edible Schoolyard Project, they enter into a space that is filled with wonderment and is meant to provoke curiosity.”
What started as asphalt in Berkeley, California has since flourished into a global education movement. Meet The Edible Schoolyard Project.
Twenty-five years ago, Alice Waters — chef, author, food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant — partnered with Neil Smith, the principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, to convert an abandoned parking lot to an organic garden classroom. In doing so, they launched the first Edible Schoolyard dedicated to teaching the value of nourishment, stewardship and community to kids. A committed and creative coalition of educators, families, farmers, cooks and advocates soon joined the effort.
As defined by The Edible Schoolyard Project, an edible education is the use of food as a tool to teach lessons on academic curriculum, health, community and the environment. So, the organization is dedicated to transforming the health of children pre-kindergarten through high school by designing hands-on educational experiences in the garden, kitchen, cafeteria and at home that connect them to food, nature and to each other.
The Edible Schoolyard Project aims to help schools and communities develop strong edible education programs grounded in shared standards. Schools, nonprofit and advocacy organizations, food banks and government agencies that embrace The Edible Schoolyard Project’s pedagogy and practices can join their network. (Check out partner programs around the world on their interactive network map.) And anyone can access their resource library, which contains free curriculum and program development documents to help strengthen edible education programs.
Take a tour of The Edible Schoolyard Project’s flagship garden and kitchen and meet the team who brings the program to life. Then, read on to learn how they have been deepening their approach and expanding their reach.
IN THE KITCHEN & GARDEN: THE EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD BERKELEY
The one-acre garden at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School that Waters and Smith established in 1995 is still thriving today and works in tandem with a kitchen classroom to offer experiential learning for 6th to 8th graders. The garden classroom is planted, cultivated and harvested by the students and then used in the kitchen during cooking lessons. All kitchen scraps are returned to the garden in the compost pile to continue the cycle.
“When students come to The Edible Schoolyard Project, they enter into a space that is filled with wonderment and is meant to provoke curiosity,” says Angela McKee-Brown, Executive Director at The Edible Schoolyard Project.
The program is fully integrated into the fabric of the school and the academic experience of every student. Lessons leverage food as a resource for teaching math, science, and the humanities. “They’re learning the chemistry of compost in the garden or learning history, art and the humanities while in our kitchen classroom making dumplings or cooking a curry,” explains McKee-Brown.
This is a cornerstone of the organization’s programming and a model in action for their core values.
Learn more about the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley.
IN THE CAFETERIA: THE EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD STOCKTON
In August 2018, The Edible Schoolyard Project launched the “Pledge for Public Education,” a commitment to children and farmers to transform the school food system in California by working to:
- Provide a free sustainable school lunch to fuel student success
- Uplift farmers and ranchers who take care of the land and their workers
- Teach students the values of nourishment, stewardship and community.
In actualizing the concepts of this pledge, The Edible Schoolyard Project partnered with the City of Stockton in California, Stockton Unified School district and the South Stockton community. They began fundraising and setting up a pilot project at a local school, Taylor Leadership Academy, with the goal to build tools and resources that can eventually be scaled up.
After the pandemic started and Stockton public schools transitioned to remote learning, The Edible Schoolyard Project wanted to keep their commitment to the children, community and local farmers. So, they reallocated grant funds to procure food directly from organic farmers in the region making purposeful choices about investing in local farmers of color and women farmers in order to help foster a more just food system.
Next, they figured out how to directly distribute the produce while providing academic learning opportunities. The result? Weekly CSA boxes for South Stockton families that contain Edible Education at Home lessons. (Check out an example on the right.)
“It is because of our partners and team in Stockton that we’ve been able to begin building a network of trust and intentional inclusion to assist in feeding food-insecure families,” says McKee-Brown. “We’re making sure we have an environment that people feel welcome to and a part of because their voices are a part of it.”
Learn more about The Edible Schoolyard Project Stockton.
AT HOME: EDIBLE EDUCATION
The Edible Schoolyard Project believes that students’ experiences outside of school are just as meaningful as their experiences in school. So, in spring of 2020, when widespread distance learning took the place of more formal learning environments, the organization worked quickly to support students, teachers and families through a suite of lessons and activities designed for the home classroom.
Today, there are more 80 student-centered lessons embracing the themes of imagine, create, learn, connect, reflect and support. All are free and available for download.
Learn more about Edible Education for the Home Classroom.
Since 2009, The Edible Schoolyard Project’s annual Summer Training program has educators, gardeners, chefs and advocates from around the world to Berkeley for an immersive multi-day training experience in running engaging and culturally responsive gardening, cooking and school meal programs.
In response to the pandemic in 2020, The Edible Schoolyard Project also launched online trainings to share teaching strategies for adapting edible education to distance learning.
A FEW MILESTONES
- Supports a network of nearly 6,000 edible education programs around the world
- Trained over 1,000 teachers, administrators, food service staff, nutritionists and community leaders, impacting more than 1 million students
- Nearly 30,000 downloads of their edible education at home resources during the first six months of the pandemic
- Establishing The Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education with UC Davis, which will enable the organization to provide year-round training to educators
Whole Kids Foundation is honored to support The Edible Schoolyard Project as they pioneer more just, equitable and regenerative food systems to benefit children, farmers, communities and the planet.