In advance of her appearance at the New York Wine & Food Festival October 12 (tickets are still available) on a panel called Beyond Chicken Nuggets: How to Raise a Healthy Eater, Alice Waters did a Q&A with the New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope. Waters broke no new ground in the interview, but if you've never heard Alice on the subject, it's worth checking out. She championed her Edible Schoolyard initiative in her beloved Berkeley, California, and stressed the value of families cooking and eating together. Waters and her fellow panelists are going to talk about how parents can improve the quality of food their children eat.
Here are Waters' suggestions:
"Bring kids into a whole relationship with food that’s connected to nature and our culture."
"We need a program in the public school system, an everyday experience for kids that is nourishing, that brings them to the ideas of stewardship of the land, like the hands-on experience that the kids have at the school in Berkeley in the garden. They come there with their math class maybe and measure and weigh vegetables. They begin to learn about the compost heap, and about biodiversity, what’s ripe and what’s not ripe. It’s opening up these pathways through the mind."
She goes on:
"It takes teachers to breath life into it. It takes a revolution in the cafeteria to make it happen. What parents can do is go into the schools and see what’s going on in cafeterias. They can write to superintendents and encourage teachers in schools to engage the children in these hands-on ways."
"Create a garden, bring children to farms for field trips. I think it’s important that parents and teachers get together to do one or two things they can accomplish well — a teaching garden, connecting with farms nearby, weave food into the curriculum. Buy foods from nearby farms and have that food served in the cafeteria."
Waters' compelling conclusion: "Children are hungry for food, but they are also hungry for care. This food comes with care. That’s the magic of it."
In other words, it's going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to uproot long-established school-lunch and cafeteria policies. What can our army of serious eaters do?
We need to make honest food our collective cause. It's happening in one school in Berkeley, a few toney private schools in New York and elsewhere, schools like Yale and Kenyon, and even in some disadvantaged neighborhoods like Brooklyn, New York's Red Hook, but these are drops in the proverbial milk bucket. We need to make this our cause in all 50 states.
We need money for lobbyists to advocate on behalf of honest food to the Congress so that farm bills contain provisions to make food part of the curriculum at public elementary schools. We need a state by state advocacy effort, because so many educational spending decisions are local ones.
Alice is the zealot who's articulating a clear vision, but it's up to the rest of us to make it happen. If the Slow Food movement needs a specific cause to champion, honest food in schools might be just something all of us who care about food and the future can get behind.
What do you think, serious eaters?
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