As the students from King Middle School in Berkeley, California enjoyed their summer vacation, I took a cross-country flight to spend three magical days playing (and learning) in their garden and kitchen. Yes, these lucky kids have an amazing oasis on their campus where they learn math, science, social studies and more, all in their kitchen and garden “classroom”! How is this possible? Thanks to the creativity and passion of Alice Waters, and the willing spirit of community members and school educators, Edible Schoolyard Berkeley (formerly the Chez Panisse Foundation) was born!
Since its inception, the school garden had grown from a parking lot, to a lush learning space that includes a greenhouse, a chicken coop, rows and rows of fresh produce and healthy compost piles! And, the kitchen, from a portable classroom to a culinary journey around the world! All this, and the program is fully integrated into the school’s traditional curriculum. Students in the 6th through 8th grades are involved in the garden and kitchen programs as a part of their regular school day.
I was lucky enough to see it all firsthand, along with a fellow Whole Foods Market® Team Member, Kelly Lewis, from our Louisville, Kentucky store. With us were 100 school educators, parents, volunteers and food service leaders from around the US and Canada. We were all there to bring a piece of this place back to our own communities. Some people had already established “Edible” programs in their schools, others were just getting started.
As a part of the program, I was also invited by Kyle Cornforth, Edible Schoolyard Berkeley Director, to speak on behalf of Whole Kids Foundation®. In addition to sharing the successes of the foundation’s first year, I also shared best practices in grant writing. I encouraged the other attendees in their efforts to raise funds and raise awareness about the importance of school gardens, and the value that gardens bring to our children’s education and health. This opportunity allowed me to connect the resources and support available from Whole Foods Market and Whole Kids Foundation to the work that these parents and educators were accomplishing in their own communities. I even met some Whole Kids Foundation salad bar and garden grant recipients!
My time in Berkeley was truly spectacular — from the connections that I made, to the inspiration and motivation it gave me! Back in the Mid-Atlantic region, we’re gearing up for another Whole Kids Foundation fundraiser. Our Team Members are truly committed to supporting the growth of the foundation, in a collective effort to bring more salad bars and gardens to the schools in our community.