Chef Alice Waters, a pioneer of "California Cuisine" and a leading proponent or organic cooking, is getting behind an effort in the D.C. Council to establish tough new "healthy" standards for school lunches.
Waters, owner of Chez Panisse Café and Restaurant in Berkley, Calif., says it's time District schools become more like ones in her town.
"The Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley runs a teaching garden and kitchen that are integrated into the curriculum of the school," Waters says in written testimony to the council. "Through the years, we've learned an incredible lesson: When children grow it and cook it, they will eat."
Under a proposal by Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), D.C. public schools would be encouraged to purchase organic foods from growers who use "sustainable practices." Ultimately, schools would partner with a local farm in establishing "farm-to-school" programs.
The proposal, which will be up for a hearing today, also seeks new standards for recycling, air quality, physical education and the creation of schoolyard gardens.
But Waters's focus is on the school lunch portion of the bill. More than three decades ago, Waters began upending how some Americans viewed food when she opened her restaurant in California. Now, her Edible Schoolyard is a source of inspiration for chefs and school administrators across the country.
"We have that power to turn that daily school lunch from an afterthought into a joyous education, a way of our caring for our health, our environment, and our community," Waters says in her testimony. "When this legislation takes effect in Washington, D.C., it will signal best practices to all of us and pave the way for our nation to follow."
Even without Cheh's legislation, however, District school administrators are looking to adopt some of Waters's nutritional standards for school lunches. Jeff Mills, the new director of food service for the District's public schools, recently visited Waters's school garden in Berkley.
-- Tim Craig