Culinary Instructor Rob McDonald champions a “food forest” for William B. Travis High School.

Rob McDonald leads the Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, a food service training program at this large high school campus in South Austin.

The culinary students cater school, district and community events. Rob wanted to give his students a firsthand appreciation for where that food comes from, so he led the effort to create a school garden, which he views as a natural extension of the culinary arts curriculum.

With help from a local permaculture expert, a grant from Whole Kids Foundation and support from dozens of volunteers, the students transformed two courtyards into a “food forest” with a self-sustaining vegetable, herb and fruit area and rainwater collectors. The school’s Rebel Green Team will also add an outdoor kitchen with solar ovens and a solar humidifier.

The garden will become a vital teaching tool for the culinary program, but it also serves as an outdoor classroom that relates to every subject and Rob’s ultimate goal is to integrate it into every teacher's curriculum.