Local restaurants raise money for edible education

Potentially lost in the tsunami of stories of all things Chez Panisse this week  — see yesterday’s Berkeleyside Wire and this post today for a fraction of the coverage circulating in anticipation of the 40th anniversary celebrations that start in earnest tonight — is the fact that the weekend long festivities are, at their heart, a series of fundraisers for the newly launched Edible Schoolyard Project, a national hub designed to broaden the reach of The Edible Schoolyard founded by Alice Waters.

What kind of money are we talking about?  “We have a projected revenue goal of $500,000 which we hope to surpass,” said David Prior, communications director for Chez Panisse. “Like any non-profit we are ever hopeful that some unlikely champions will emerge from the weekend’s events.”

The funds will be used to maintain the flagship direct service program at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley and support a shift in focus to work on a national platform of advocacy, while building and sharing food curriculum with educators in all communities, according to Prior.

A decent chunk of those funds will come from high-ticket, sold-out dinners (check please @ $500-$2,000), such as a pig roast at Michael Pollan‘s house, out of reach for most mere mortals. But there are more accessible, affordable ways for others to participate.

Pop-up chef and Chez alum Samin Nosrat. Photo: Bart Nagel

Chez Panisse alum Samin Nosrat knows a thing or two about raising money for worthy causes: she was the mastermind behind both the Bakesale for Haiti, which brought in $22,000, and the Bakesale for Japan, which raised a whopping $140,000. So Nosrat was put in charge of Eating for Education, a campaign to include restaurants and food businesses from around the country, many of them from the Chez inner circle, who have agreed to donate a percentage of profits to a school garden program of their choice on Saturday.

Participating restaurants in town include Café Rouge, Revival, Tacubaya, Zut!, Bar Cesar, Summer Kitchen & Bake Shop, Ici, and, of course, Chez Panisse.

Some restaurateurs have designated specific programs or schools to help, while others will simply donate to the general fund. The take from Tacubaya, for instance, will go to Malcolm X Elementary (where the owners’ children went to school). Café Rouge already has a relationship with Dig Deep Farms in Oakland, where their funds will go.

Summer Kitchen & Bake Shop is using the anniversary to kick off its new Farm Shop Box, available in store on Saturdays. The $65 boxes include fresh produce from local farmers, along with artisan products from the store. In the mix this week: tomatoes, peaches and basil from J and K Smith Farm in  Brentwood, along with Soul Food Farm eggs and chicken soup, and Summer Kitchen pizza and tart dough. The store will host a brunch on Saturday featuring farm box ingredients.

A percentage of profits from the brunch and the farm boxes will benefit local school garden programs. “We are starting with our Farm Shop Boxes as a fundraiser and will continue them in order to fund a grants program,” said Reis, Summer Kitchen co-owner and pastry chef, as well as a Chez alum. “The cooking and gardening programs in Berkeley are close to my heart,” added Reis, who worked at Washington Elementary for five years teaching cooking to kids. The idea behind the grants program is that school gardens could apply, for instance, if they needed money for, say a new wheelbarrow.

As Nosrat noted, profit margins are slim in the restaurant business, but she hopes that the day will raise awareness and a little cash for local school gardens — and perhaps lead to long-term relationships between restaurant chefs and school cooking and garden programs.

So if shelling out some small change for tacos at Tacubaya or ice cream at Ici is more your style (and matches your pocketbook), know that on Saturday your money will benefit kids’ edible education too.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

Berkeley Bites: Samin Nosrat [06/25.10]
Berkeley merchants reach out to raise funds for Japan [03.16.11]
Berkeley Bites: Paul Arenstam and Charlene Reis, Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop [08.06.10]

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  • Concertejungle

    half a mill to be put into that pit so some kid can eat a “fresh”  apple.Typical  wishy washy liberal Berzerkley

  • Concertejungle, your negative, mean-spirited comment suggests to me that you are both poor in spirit and poor in reading skills. The $500,000 is not just going into one local edible school yard. The money will be used to expand an outreach program to enroll schools, ideally all over the country, into using the same curriculum. Outreach is work and it costs money to do it.  People can’t often dedicate their lives to good works as strictly volunteers  Everyone, even here in wishy washy liberal ‘berzerkley” usually has to pay housing costs, utilities, food, clothing, transportation. We don’t yet live in an economically just universe that equitably shares the resources of our commons, this planet we all share and own by right of being born onto it.  It costs money to just write curriculum, money to deliver information, money to consult to schools starting up.

    There is an aspect of this fundraising that troubles me. I think I understand that having local restaurants participate in this fundraising by donating microcopic amounts of the money spent in their businesses on Saturday is a kind of win-win. These businesses, giving their time and reputation to a good cause, will, hopefully, benefited from some extra business on Saturday. I realize this activity as a gift.

    And all the folks who spend money in these businesses on Saturday are also participating in a good cause. And this is a good way to do good work:  it’s not just about the end result, more school gardens in more schools, it is about education our community about healthy eating and growing food and just coming together to do good. This creates real value, the kind of value that corporate capitalism does not recognize. And I am glad to have these various stakeholders, restauranteurs, patrons of restaurants, people who care about schools and healthy food, are all benefiting.

    But I wish this story said there might be collection boxes at every business in Berkeley that sells any kind of food, from coffeeshops, to deli-grocery stores, to large drug stores with food departments, to large grocery stores, fast food and all restaurants . .. . little cans, maybe, at the registrar soliciting donations to this effort.

    Better still, I wish all the restaurants mentioned in this article would ask everyone coming to their fundraising meal tomorrow to just pop five bucks into a collection tin for this cause.

    Once in college, back in 1971 when I was a freshman, all the students living on commons, which meant these students paid to eat al their meals in the cafeteria — there were no other options in those days. If you lived on campus, you paid for the full meal plan whether you ate there or not. But once, some nonprofit working to end hunger somewhere, maybe in this country but I think the fundraiser was for hunger somewhere else — not that it ultimately matters where hunger is — all on campus students were invited to skip one dinner in the cafeteria and have the cost of that meal donated to the good cause.

    Every one of my pals and I signed up. This was forty years ago and it was a bulk meal plan. I don’t remember the amount the university cafeteria allocated to the hunger campaign if we signed up to skip that one dinner but it was not much. a couple bucks maybe. Maybe up to three bucks but not more.

    Then we all went out to eat and spent much more on our meals that night. Absolutely no one went without dinner on that campus, altho most students did opt out of eating that one meal in the cafeteria and, in doing so, donating a small amount to the save-hunger drive.

    My little crowd and I decided we were going to indulge ourselves that night. I did not have much spending money in college.  I hardly ever ate in restaurants because my meals were all paid for in the cafeteria and the cafeteria food was pretty good.  About the only time I bought food off campus was when I was stoned and it was late at night.  We got stoned the night of that hunger fundraiser and spent what was, for us, lots of money. We ate at several places, buying just one luxury food choice after another, allowing ourselves to indulge in things we financial-aid, work-study kids never allowed ourselves. At the end, we decided that the perfect ending was a cup of hot cocoa. Real hot cocoa, we decided in our ‘high’ state of mind.  So we went to several food purveyors, asking if they had ‘real’ hot cocoa, made with milk and chocolate and sugar. But store after store confessed that their cocoa was a powdered mix. Finally we got to a Burger King. We were all cute college freshmen girls, stoned, and the teenage boy behind the counter was thilled to serve us.  He explained that his BK only sold cocoa in the winter months and, since it was early fall, no cocoa. But he offered to microwave a chocolate shake for us over and over until it got as hot as cocoa. We all thought that sounded really delicious so we each bought the largest chocolate shake the kid could sell, he zapped all those shakes and, by golly, the result was a very tasty version of hot chocolate. It was creamy, frothy, chocolately, with real milk, real sugar and real chocolate. And we were all amazed by how the volume shrank when the cold frothy shake was turned hot.

    And I remember the shame I felt waiting for those microwave chocolate shakes. I knew that boy was induging us to flirt, knew he hoped he had some kind of shot with our lead flirting coed, Rachel.  Rachel charmed every boy: a natural blonde, with blue eyes and a very full bosom before implants were around.  I remember the stoned bunch of idiots that we were adding up how much we had spent that night on dinner. We had each spent four or five times as much as the cafeteria had donated to the fundraiser.  It was wrong.  We all talked about how wrong it was.

    In fact, two of us approached someone in the college’s administration and suggested that if they did the fundraiser again, that they ask students to donate a few dollars instead of skipping dinner in the cafeteria. But the school never sponsored that fundraiser again

    And then I have to say something I always feel compelled to point out when the world is waving about Alice Waters. I know she is a local gal. Berkeley is rightly proud of one of their own. Alice Waters’ life’s work has contributed to the local food movement. But she did not invent school food gardens. 

    In fact, I wonder why the Edible School Garden project needs to do any work outside of its own local watershed.  I am sure that schools all across the country have the resources and skills they need to figure out how to start a local garden. Trying to turn this local project into a national movement sorta belies some of the principles behind local eating, doesn’t it?

    There are farmers and food gardeners near every school in the country and some of them would volunteer to help schools start food gardens. There are food gardens at lots of schools already. Back in the Midwest and the East Coast, virtually every Waldorf school has always had a garden and always been affiliated with a nearby biodynamic farm that the children regularly visit to understand the central importance of humans relationship to food and the earth.

    AND there are many nonprofits working to educate people about growing food in their yards and homes. Maybe local schools in South Dakota or Tennessee can figure out how to start a garden relying on local community wisdom and not need any advice from Edible Schoolyards Project.

    If Ms. Waters has proselytized anything, she has always emphasized the importance of local. It is a mistake to think advice from a nonprofit in Berkeley is needed to start a good edible school yard in Oklahoma.

    Well, this is a long ramble. Better get back to work.


  • An edible school garden is about much, much more than eating a fresh apple. For one thing, I believe it takes many years for an apple tree sapling to actually produce fruit.

    Here in Berkeley, any time I see school gardens discussed, it always seems to focus on ‘edible’. Having children participate in the real, and often hard, work of nurturing a seed into something edible for dinner is really great. But there is a whole lot more going on than growing food and seeing kids learn about eating well.

    There is the miracle of life. A garden is about science.  If I were teaching kids about growing things in a garden, and I did teach my one kid such things, as well as other kids I have loved along the way, I would ask the kid questions to get them reflecting on what happens to turn a seed into something.  Getting a child to reflect on how a seed responds to the conditions it finds itself in, drawing what it needs from the soil, being dependent on sunlight to grow, putting down roots, reaching up above the ground towards the sunlight, then expanding and growing in that sunlight, responding to water. Or if a plant should fail to get what it needs, water or sunlight or space, the children learn lessons in the failure. That’s science. That’s life.  Those are highly valuable lessons that connect children to both the earth and the stars – the sun is a star. Even if a school garden were to grow nothing but flowers, a school garden is an invaluable classroom that every human child should have an opportunity to explore.

    I sometimes wish the focus on school gardens was not quite so much on edible. I wish children were all mentored in a Goethean approach to science. Goethe is better known for his poetry but he was an even more amazing scientist than a literary writer. If the world had followed Goethe’s scientific ieas instead of Newton’s — they were roughly contemporaries and Goethe said Newton got some key things wrong, but most of what passes for modern science is still rooted in Newtonian foundational ideas — Goethe said that humans should undertake phenomenological studies of nature as their study of science, sensing into the phenomenon we see all around us that make up this amazing world we live in.  He said all humans have within them the capacity to understand how a tiny mustard seed becomes mustard and, in that knowing, come to know about the sun, how the earth moves around the sun, how water and nutrients in the soil shape life. This is the main reason all schools should have gardens and all children should work in the garden: for the learning, not the food or the flowers. For the magic. Or, if you must, for the ‘science’.

    Long ago, when most humans lived in agrarian cultures, all humans grew up with connections to nature that many in contemporary time have lost. Having a direct, phenomenlogical knowing of how things grow instills a sense of reverence in the human child for this word and that sense of reverence can be a seed, a seed that can, if the child is properly nurtured in her education, that will guide each child to plant their own right roots, find their own right sunlight, find their own water. In other words, instill reverence in each human child for the magic of life, which is what growing a plant can do, and you will seed the human future with more whole human beings who will make wiser choices than the narrow-minded greed-profit corporateers running this world would make.

    A school garden is all about seeding the human future with humans connected to the earth and stars. So hell yes, I think everyone should contribute something to school garden work.

    I am much encouraged to see that urban gardening is growing wildly. I am saddened when I read horror stories of some folks in Berkeley and Oakland getting fined for growing food in their front yards. Ack.  How can that be true?  How can a community forbid the growing of vegetables?

  • Concertejungle

    You mean back to work for that overhyped  chief who doesn’t even know how to cook–if your not the old bat herself. That clip they showed of her trying to boil and egg in the most ridiculousness way possible and no wonder people like Anthony Bourdaine and other REAL chefs enjoy making fun of her and those crackpot ideas how people should only eat high price produce. Plus it was  revealed  she would buy product from people outside of not only the Bay Area but out of the state as well–some support she has for local growers. A queen of bulls*it if there ever was one.