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D.C. School Gardens Link with Alice Waters

February 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments · Posted in kids

Caution: Work in progress

Caution: Gardening in progress

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?

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  • Dr Susan Rubin

    If we could find a way to get a garden going in EVERY school, we’d be on our way to raising the Food IQ and the culture of food.

    The problem of declining children’s health will not be healed by teaching a faulty food pyramid or cleaning up the cafeteria, it will require all of us to reconnect to real food and where it comes from. Integrate food based education into all of the core curriculum and get everyone’s feet back in the earth via gardening.

  • Carl Rollins

    First, let me say that I agree with the previous comment. On Ed’s post…

    All assurances from Sarah and Iris aside. Perhaps it’s a matter of styles. With reference to the School Gardens Program in the Healthy Schools Act I have attempted to generate as much interest as possible, from the beginning, so that our decision-makers can see the size and passion of our vibrant, growing gardening community.

    I constantly updated various listservs on what was going on.

    In addition, I ensured that over 15 people were included in the working groups on the bill convened by Councilmember Cheh—if they wanted to be. I called a meeting of these stakeholders BEFOREHAND in order to get input. It’s true that every possible person wasn’t in the loop but the distribution list was so broad that I would imagine that just about everyone who would have wanted to come to the meeting came.

    I pushed my agenda and the agenda of the organizations that I am a part of at the same time. My uppermost concern has been for the health of people everywhere, and the health of the planet. I also ensured that everyone else got to voice their own views and an opportunity to push their agendas.

    Someone other than me compiled notes of our get together (that I didn’t necessarily agree with), and we walked into the working group meeting with a document that was the collective effort of 10 people. Many of the ideas in that document are now in the Act.

    My “style” was a bit different than calling a last minute meeting just before a hearing so that DCPS could score some PR points. I’m in favor of open and inclusive planning from the ground up.