My mother-in-law grew up on a farm in the Pacific Northwest. Though she eventually moved into Seattle, she never stopped growing her own fruits and vegetables. The first time I heard about the Edible Schoolyard project, I was reminded of how astonished and intrigued my children were when they first realized that their Grandma used apples from her very own apple tree to make applesauce. She also bakes her own bread, makes fresh pies at Thanksgiving and always has homemade cookies in the kitchen. It strikes me that my mother-in-law and Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters, though they come from vastly different worlds, would have quite a bit in common.
The Edible Schoolyard was founded 20 years ago in Berkeley, California. Since that time, the world of experiential learning through gardening has taken root across the country. Here in New Orleans, the Edible Schoolyard is one of our city's most notable nonprofits. A signature program of First Line Schools, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans operates five gardens (one at each of First Line's schools) and two teaching kitchens. Nationally, the program has distinguished itself as the largest of the Founding Edible Schoolyards, a group of seven programs across the country that are officially recognized for their exceptional work.
Setting a Place
The mission of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans is to teach children to make healthy connections through food. While those connections may begin with a simple garden, they have the potential to move beyond food and evolve into a way of life. As staff member Amelia Bird so eloquently explains, “In classes and at special events, children are making connections to their core academic content; their agricultural and culinary heritage; local chefs and food growers; the ecology of the Gulf South; critical environmental and social justice issues; their communities and neighborhoods; and their own physical wellbeing.”
In describing his experience with Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, a fifth grade student at Samuel J. Green Charter School put just the right words to the power of this program and, in particular, its impact on New Orleans in light of its post-Katrina founding 10 years ago: “The Edible Schoolyard has changed how I feel about school. … After Katrina, on this campus all there was to do was to throw rocks on the concrete. Now we can come get veggies and fruits anytime we want in our garden.”
When middle school students start getting excited about fruits and vegetables and wanting to go to school, something extraordinary is clearly at play. Edible Schoolyard New Orleans is not only making a difference, it seems to be achieving the impossible. For more information, visit ESYNola.com.
Herbed Soda Bread & Homemade Butter
3 cups white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
variety of garden herbs
½ cup heavy whipping cream
HERBED SODA BREAD: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Measure and mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Measure out buttermilk. Make a well in the flour and pour in most of the buttermilk. Stir. Add snipped herbs.
Turn out onto floured cutting board and knead just enough to bring dough together. Pat dough into round loaf about 1½ inches high and put on baking sheet. Cut a cross fairly deep into the bread all the way to the edges.
Bake for 45 minutes or until browned on top.
BUTTER: Add whipping cream to jar with pinch of salt. Close tightly and shake. Strain the liquid (buttermilk!) off. Stir gently.