When Alice Waters came to Washington last month she met with D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the schools’ new food service director, Jeffrey Mills, to talk about building a model school garden program in the District. Mills was already keen on the idea, so in very short order he asked Sarah Bernardi at Bancroft Elementary School to write up a proposal and send it to Waters’ office in Berkeley, California, to be vetted. All of this was done in a great rush in anticipation of public hearings on the “Healthy Schools” legislation pending before the D.C. Council. As it turned out, the hearings were postponed until March. But the proposal marches on.
A comment posted here yesterday, attached to an interview with Anthony Tata, the school system’s chief operating officer, apparently caused a stir because it questioned the experience level of those involved in drafting the model school garden proposal. First, Bancroft Elementary, having one of the most mature school gardening program in the city, along with Watkins Elementary on Capitol Hill, is a logical place to look for know-how. Second, since the ink isn’t even dry on this proposal, it does seem a bit premature to be holding it up for scrutiny.
In their follow-up comments, longtime Bancroft gardener Iris Rothman and Sarah Bernardi give plenty of assurance that the process for developing the model garden proposal is not only in very capable hands, but will be shared with everyone in the city who embraces the notion that food gardens–as envisioned in the “Healthy Schools” act–are an important piece of the solution to food illiteracy. What’s more, Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard team have enough expertise to put to rest any concerns there might be about the adequacy of this proposal.
Bernardi recently published here an impassioned essay about the need for full-time staff to oversee school gardens, rather than relying on volunteers and overburdened teachers. This evolving proposal apparently includes precisely that.
Now, perhaps we can tempt Iris and Sarah to catch us up on what’s happening with this project by way of a post of their own?