Vineyard greens a garden

Wine doesn’t normally top the list of contributions to childhood nutrition, but a new California winery with an affinity for New Orleans is now supporting one local effort that is making school lunch healthier. To mark its recent debut, the new Presqu’ile Winery made a $200,000 contribution to the Edible Schoolyard program in New Orleans, which uses organic gardening and seasonal cooking as hands-on teaching tools to support classroom lessons.

The winery, located along California’s central coast, was begun by members of the Murphy family of the Arkansas-based Murphy Oil Corp., who made the donation through their nonprofit, The Murphy Foundation.

“New Orleans is, in essence, our second home,” says Madison Murphy, a founder of Presqu’ile Winery.

Murphy and his family have lived here intermittently throughout the years and their winery is named for a family home in nearby Pass Christian, Miss., which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Acknowledging the challenges of launching a new wine brand, Murphy says he and his partners began looking for partner organizations and discovered the Edible Schoolyard.

“We want to try to find communities where we can work with an organization and make a difference while getting our brand out there,” Murphy says. “Can we do what we’re doing here in every market? No. But this place is special to us. This is home.”

The Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans is the first expansion of the original program developed in Berkeley, Calif., by chef and food activist Alice Waters. The program comes as a response to the diminished quality of school lunch and the dominance of processed and sugary foods in children’s diets. Youth advocates say factors like these contribute to the country’s childhood obesity epidemic.

The Edible Schoolyard was established in 2006 at Uptown’s Samuel J. Green Charter School, a public school teaching kindergarten through eighth grade. The program marries lunchtime nutrition, classroom education and hands-on gardening with a sprawling vegetable patch on school grounds and a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen in the cafeteria. Local funders, especially the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, have long supported the program and school leaders say the new contribution from Presqu’ile and the Murphy Foundation will help too.

“This (donation) will allow us to continue to nourish our kids’ minds, bodies and spirits,” says Dr. Tony Recasner, president of FirstLine Schools, which operates Green and three other charter schools in New Orleans.

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