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Chef, Author, and Proprietor
“For the past 40 years, Alice Waters has been synonymous with sustainable foods, transforming Locavore from a fringe faction to a nationwide movement. With Edible Schoolyard, she has instilled these ideals in a new generation, revolutionizing school lunches, integrating education, food, farming and nutrition, and, in the process, ensuring a delicious future.”
– Dan Barber
It is impossible to talk about food leadership in this country without mentioning Alice Waters. Since opening Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, in 1971, Waters has been a passionate advocate in the movement to create what she describes as a “good, clean, and fair” food economy.
“For 40 years, Alice Waters has been synonymous with sustainable foods,” says fellow James Beard Foundation Award–winning chef Dan Barber, who first met Waters when he staged at Chez Panisse in 1993. Barber adds that Waters has “transformed Locavore from a fringe faction to a nationwide movement.”
With Chez Panisse, Waters and her friends didn’t just open a restaurant, they started a movement. From the beginning, they served only the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients that included locally grown produce as well as meat, fish, and poultry, and the restaurant helped build a community of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients.
Four decades later, restaurants that practice this philosophy can be found in cities and small towns across the country—many of them inspired by Chez Panisse and what Waters calls the “delicious revolution.”
In 1996, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chez Panisse, Waters established the Chez Panisse Foundation, which supports educational programs that use food to nurture, educate, and empower youth.
Her commitment to education began with the creation of the Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School: a one-acre garden, an adjacent kitchen-classroom, and an “eco-gastronomic” curriculum. The program has since been replicated all over the country, including here in New York City at P.S. 216.
“When kids follow food from the garden to the kitchen to the table, doing the work themselves—something amazing happens,” says Waters. “They get lured in by something beautiful, something that smells good, something that appeals to their senses. By engaging their senses in the garden, students are effortlessly learning where food comes from, about the importance of stewardship of the land, and about the civilizing and humanizing effects of sitting and eating together at the table.”
The Edible Schoolyard program is nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum. The success of the program led to the School Lunch Initiative, a strategy to transform the quality of school food nationwide, and a model school lunch program in the Berkeley Unified School District.
This year the Chez Panisse Foundation has been renamed the Edible Schoolyard Project, with a mission to build and share a national food curriculum. The project’s online resource center will allow those involved in the edible education movement to connect and share their lessons and best practices.
“If we can provide every student with a free nutritious lunch and interactive experiences in the classroom, kitchen, and garden,” says Waters, “we can truly transform the health and values of every child in America.”