Dine out to help Berkeley schools’ gardening program

Staff who have worked for Berkeley's cherished schools' cooking and gardening program, which is in need of support. Photo: Pete Rosos

Staff who have worked for Berkeley’s cherished schools’ cooking and gardening program, which is in need of support. Photo: Pete Rosos

Since it lost $1.9 million in federal funding last year, Berkeley schools’ much lauded, 12-year-old cooking and gardening program has been struggling to find a way to survive and continue to provide invaluable edible education to the city’s young.

The unique district-wide program encourages students to explore the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting physical activity, and knowing where their food comes from.

But the program is now “operating on a lifeline with a piecemeal budget,” said its director, Jezra Thompson.

The community has been very supportive to date and gets two new opportunities both this month and next to help.

On Tuesday May 13, you can participate in the second annual Berkeley Dine Out, when many local restaurants, bakeries and cafés will donate a percentage of your bill to the school program. Participating spots include Elmwood Café, Zut!, Cancun, Eureka!, Benchmark Pizzeria, Babette, Ippuku and Flaco’s. (See the full list.)

Babette at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, one of several restaurants participating in Berkeley Dine Out, a fundraiser for the school program, on May 13. Photo: Pete Rosos

Babette at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, one of many restaurants participating in Berkeley Dine Out, a fundraiser for the Berkeley schools’ cooking and gardening program. Berkeley Dine Out is on Tuesday May 13. Photo: Pete Rosos

Then, on Saturday June 7, 6:00-9:00 p.m., the program is hosting an evening gala reception at the International House on the UC Berkeley campus. The fundraiser will include farm-to-table food provided by Whole Foods’ special catering Chef Silvia, with local and regional produce from small organic farms found in the immediate area. There will be fine small craft brews from Pyramid Ales and CaliCraft Brewing Co., and regional wines from Mendocino Wine Inc. To top it off, there will be music by the Berkeley Middle School Ensemble, and a silent auction. For more information, and to buy tickets, visit the Gala’s website.

BUSD Board to vote on slashed budget for cooking and gardening program (03.25.14)
Cooking cuts loom in Berkeley’s edible program (1.29.14)
Berkeley tasting night raises funds for school edible program (11.14.13)
Berkeley schools’ edible programs face huge challenges (11.11.13)
Portraits: Berkeley schools’ cooking and gardening program (05.29.13)
Berkeley schools gardening, cooking program in peril (o4.16.13)
Fight re-launched to save school nutrition programs (11.19.12)
School edible programs get reprieve from the Feds (06.14.12)
Berkeley district votes to fund at-risk edible programs (04.12.12)
Community seeks life support for school edible programs (03.30.12)
Berkeley school district cuts to tackle $3m deficit (03.28.12)
Berkeley school gardening, cooking face cuts (03.23.12)

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  • John Freeman

    Is it really wise to try to fund ongoing operating expenses with elite charity? Isn’t that how BUSD arrived at not just this but several structural problems in the first place?

  • Mfox327

    I wonder why Chez Panisse isn’t participating.

  • guest

    I think you have a good train of thought going here about BUSD’s structural funding problems, but do you really consider all the restaurants on the list to be “elite?”

    If so, what restaurants in Berkeley do you consider non-elite?

    Acme Bread Company – 1601 San Pablo Ave, 94702
    Babette – 2625 Durant Ave, 94720
    Benchmark Pizzeria – 1568 Oak View Ave, 94530
    Build Pizzeria Roma – 2286 Shattuck Ave, 94704
    Cafe Rouge – 1782 4th St, 94710
    Cancun – 2134 Allston Way, 94704
    Comal – 2020 Shattuck Ave, 94704
    East Bay Spice Company – 2134 Oxford Street, 94704
    Elmwood Cafe – 2900 College Ave, 94705 (100% of sales from 5-10pm!)
    Emilia’s Pizzeria – 2995 Shattuck Ave, 94705
    Eureka! – 2068 Center Street, 94704 (6pm-12am only)
    Fellini Coffeebar – 1401 University Ave, 94702
    FIVE Restaurant – 2086 Allston Way, 94704 (5-9pm only)
    Flaco’s – 3031 Adeline St, 94703
    Gather – 2200 Oxford St, 94704
    Gaumenkitzel – 2121 San Pablo Ave, 94702
    Homemade Cafe – 2454 Sacramento St, 94702
    Ippuku – 2130 Center St, 94704
    Jules Thin Crust – 5804 College Ave, Oakland, 94618
    Phil’s Sliders – 2024 Shattuck Ave, 94704
    Revival Bar & Kitchen – 2102 Shattuck Ave, 94704 (food & non-alcoholic beverages)
    Rick & Ann’s – 2922 Domingo Ave, 94705
    Tacubaya – 1788 4th Street, 94710
    Taste of the Himalayas – 1700 Shattuck Ave, 94709
    The Local Butcher Shop – 1600 Shattuck Ave, 94709
    Zut! – 1820 Fourth Street, 94710

  • Guest

    I’m new to this–where’s the background on how the funding was lost?

  • emraguso

    You can see all the background in the related stories at the bottom of the post above.

  • Fraud-o-rama

    and they never did meet those requirements, it seems. While BUSD reports 40% of students are on free/reduced lunch, the ACS data suggests that the figures are inflated 10x.

  • guest

    Also worth noting, if we didn’t bus students across town for the sake of “diversity” more of our schools would qualify for that funding.

  • Guest

    What structural problems do you mean?

  • guest

    Allowing hundreds of illegal transfer students would be a start.

  • Kevin Jude

    Source or methodology?

  • Fraud-o-Rama

    CA dataquest for the BUSD figures. Report at district level, custom report, choose free/reduced lunch for Berkeley unified.

    American fact finder has the ACS data, which you can scope to the city of Berkeley and then view the report on income as a percentage of poverty for households with school age children. Free lunch is <130%. Reduced is <185%.

    You'll need to add in people on food stamps, also available on ACS, but that group overlaps with the income group, so the populations aren't discrete sets.

    BUSD's embrace of fraudulent enrollment alters the shape and focus of the district in many ways.

  • GuestHydra

    JF has long denied the presence of those students, so I’m wondering if he’s changed his view or has other structural problems in mind.

  • guest

    For one thing, several Berkeley schools fund their state-mandated ELD programs with PTA money. Without compliant and well-funded PTAs, we’d have a problem meeting these mandates.

  • Alexandra

    As an actual parent in the actual BUSD with an actual child who loves her time in the garden every week, I think this is a very valuable program worth supporting. If it were just a bunch of whole grain slices of bread thrown at the kids, then sure, I’d say de-fund it. But it’s an opportunity for the kids to plant carrots and radishes and see them get bigger, and then eat them fresh out of the garden. It’s a really nice change from sitting around doing worksheets to keep up with Common Core. Not all of us give that opportunity to our kids at home whether for time or space reasons. Furthermore, kids have so little time to just be outside – although I think BUSD does better than other districts in terms of recess time. But recess is in the playground, and the garden is something different. We don’t currently have cooking, but when/if we do, I’ll be very pleased. School is for doing lots of different things – exploration! Cooking is part of that. I’m soooo sick and tired of every article about BUSD generating tons of comments blaming the out-of-district students for every ill. We have a great school district, and I am one tax-paying parent who doesn’t mind sharing that wealth. I wonder how many of the frequent negative commenters actually currently have kids in BUSD…

  • Doop da doop

    We could use the bussing money for c and g, reduce traffic and greenhouse emissions at the same time. This 1968 relic must cost millions of dollars to execute.

  • Sage Garden Project

    What does ELD stand for?

  • rhuberry

    As I read the comments, I would say most of the commenters about fraudulent enrollment have or have had kids in BUSD. It hasn’t changed much since my kids were in school in the 80’s and 90’s and since I taught in the 90’s and 00’s. If anything, it’s getting worse.

    Also regarding recess time, I don’t know about other districts but can’t imagine they could do much worse than Berkeley. In all my years teaching at three different schools, there was a 15-minute morning recess and 15 minutes of play time after eating lunch. To me, that’s pretty minimal.