I just returned home from the opening day of the Madison (Wisconsin) Farmers Market (spring starts late here!). And it got me thinking about how to connect food and education. No, not like culinary school, smarty pants. But getting younger kids to appreciate the bountiful harvest in their own backyard.
Fortunately, others have not just thought but acted upon this idea. The best and longest-standing example perhaps is The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California. Established by Alice Waters–the award-winning and world-famous chef and owner of Chez Panisse–the nonprofit Edible Schoolyard teaches middle school students how to grow, harvest, and prepare seasonal produce through the use of an on-site garden and kitchen classroom. It’s been in operation since 1997.
Here in my backyard of Wisconsin a similar effort is in existence. Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch is a partnership of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Madison-based nonprofit, REAP. It provides locally grown produce to elementary school cafeterias. According to FarmToSchool.org, it’s one of an estimated 1,115 farm-to-school programs in 34 states. One of its related initiatives is Cooking Healthy Options in Wisconsin (CHOW), which brings L’Etoile chef/owner Tory Miller into a Madison middle school to teach kids about fresh, local ingredients through cooking. Looks like Madison could have some Top Chefs in the making!
For those of you who are no longer school-aged but are interested in supporting local, sustainable agriculture, buy local and eat local! Check out the web sites of Local Harvest or Slow Food USA or consider joining a local CSA.