The Edible Schoolyard Project

week 24:  this week i'm gonna... promote healthy eating

Alice Waters, Founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project  (photo credit: David Liittschwager)

Alice Waters, Founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project (photo credit: David Liittschwager)

Twenty years ago, Alice Waters was quoted in a local Berkeley, CA newspaper, claiming that the school she passed every day looked like no one cared about it. Neil Smith, then principal of Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, contacted Alice with the acre of blighted land on the school's grounds firmly in mind. He wanted her to see the school and perhaps find a way to help.

It was clear to Alice: she wanted to create a garden and build a teaching kitchen that could become tools for enriching the curriculum and life of the school community. Neil and Alice met with the faculty and the idea slowly began to take form. Teachers envisioned teaching fractions in the kitchen as a way of making math interactive, and growing heirloom grains in the garden as a way of teaching early civilizations. Parent volunteers motivated the community, which, in turn, invited family and friends to begin the transformation from asphalt to an Edible Schoolyard (now ESYP Berkeley).

Photo credit:  Erin Scott

Photo credit:  Erin Scott

Within two years, an executive director was hired, more than an acre of asphalt was cleared, a cover crop was planted, and the first group of students spent the summer in the garden.

In the fall of the third year, the kitchen became a reality. A kitchen director was hired, teachers, parents and community members came together to clear away garbage and cobwebs, and the abandoned school cafeteria became the kitchen classroom.

Many of the school’s teachers collaborated to generate garden and kitchen lessons linked to classroom studies and began scheduling regular class time with their students in the garden and kitchen. By year five, ESYP Berkeley taught ten 90-minute classes a week in both the garden and kitchen.

The Original Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California

The Original Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California

As the garden continued to grow, so did the program. Students cleared trees and brush to place two 3,500-gallon cisterns that now collect rainwater to irrigate the orchard. They built a chicken coop for chickens and ducks, and students now use more than 500 eggs in the kitchen classroom. Their annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale has become a significant community and fundraising event.

Today, it's safe to say that the school that "looked like no one cared about it" is definitely cared for. And it was Alice Waters who made that happen.

The mission of the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESYP) is to build and share a national edible education curriculum for pre-kindergarten through high school. They envision gardens and kitchens as interactive classrooms for all academic subjects, and a sustainable, delicious and free school lunch for every student. They believe that integrating this curriculum into schools can transform the health and values of every child in America.

The original Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley is the ESYP's demonstration site and learning lab. It has served as a model for similar programs across the world. Today, ESYP invests in the burgeoning field of edible education by inspiring, connecting, and strengthening practitioners and programs across the country. The Edible Schoolyard Network of over 5,000 edible education practitioners enables the exchange of ideas and best practices, and helps build an edible education curriculum for all schools.

See more about the Edible Schoolyard Project in the video below:

Over the past twenty years, ESYP Berkeley has not only become an integral part of life at King Middle School, but also an important teaching institution and model of edible education that has inspired national and international programs. One of those programs is Edible Schoolyard NYC. Established in 2010, Edible Schoolyard NYC has adapted the Edible Schoolyard Project curriculum and vision to fit the unique needs of New York City public school children. 



Recently, hundreds of elementary students at P.S. 7 M. Samuel Stern School in Harlem got the chance to get up close and personal with Macintosh, a two-week-old dairy calf. Produce and dairy farmers visited the school to share stories of food’s journey from the farm to lunch trays. 

After a presentation and a few pop-quiz questions about farming, kids were brought over to the calf’s pen, where they got the chance to reach in and pet Macintosh (and occasionally get licked!). For many of them, the morning was their first (and perhaps only) chance to meet a dairy calf in person. Macintosh's visit helped illustrate the food journey from farm to city, and also created a memorable experience for the children.

Notes for this week:

  • National Eat Your Vegetables Day is June 17th!  Did you know there was an Eat Your Vegetables Day??  Here is a favorite givetwig recipe if you want a vegetable-packed idea.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor a kitchen class for 30 Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School students.
  • For further information regarding the Edible Schoolyard Project, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to the Edible Schoolyard Project.

please share the givetwig awesomeness!