Edible Schoolyard

Coordinates: 37°52′57″N 122°16′34″W / 37.88250°N 122.27611°W / 37.88250; -122.27611
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The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) is a 1-acre (4,000 m2) garden and kitchen program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, a public middle school in Berkeley, California. It was established in 1995 by chef and author Alice Waters. It is supported by the Edible Schoolyard Project, a non-profit organization founded by Waters that same year.[1]

At the Edible Schoolyard, students participate in planting, harvesting, and preparing fresh food as part of their curriculum. These activities are designed to reinforce classroom instruction in subjects such as mathematics, science, culture, and history. They are also designed to try and help students make connections among food, health, and the environment.


The Edible Schoolyard was founded in 1995 in a vacant lot at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Waters combined her perspectives as a trained Montessori teacher, political activist, chef, and advocate of sustainable agriculture.[2][3] Waters met with then principal Neil Smith to discuss the possibility of transforming the space into a garden project that would involve students, teachers, and the community.

Planning began in 1995, with cooking classes first offered during the 1995–96 school year. Initially students used organic produce from a local farm until the Edible Schoolyard Garden was producing harvests in 1997.[citation needed]

In 2004, the Edible Schoolyard Project co-developed the School Lunch Initiative in partnership with Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy, and Children's Hospital Oakland Research Center. The aim was to develop a model for school lunch programs to provide healthy, freshly prepared meals within their budget and also to connect to kitchen garden learning programs on campus.[4] The initiative emphasized the connection between food education and improved school-food and student knowledge relating to food choices. Chef Ann Cooper was hired to direct the food service program for the Berkeley Unified School District and lead the transition to scratch-based cooking. As a result, processed foods were largely eliminated from the school lunch menu, and local produce became central to all school meals.[5]

As of 2019, the Edible Schoolyard has a network of more than 5,800 kitchen/garden programs across the country. It provides an annual summer academy for food educators and nutrition services personnel, and continues to create a curriculum around kitchen/garden learning for grades 6 and up.[6] As of May 2023, the network has grown to over 6,200 locations worldwide.[7]


Caitlin Flanagan (2010) criticized the concept of edible schoolyards as detrimental to the educational needs of children. Flanagan's criticism generated a wider discussion of the Edible Schoolyard and other school garden programs. Others argue that "career skills grow along with plants"[8] and that the presence of a school garden serves to add to and enrich a school's curriculum.[9]

W. Steven Barnett, a professor of education, notes that while "little research exists on the efficacy of a garden-based curriculum", Flanagan presents a false choice, noting that the gardens are "integrated into the child's learning experience".[10] The head of Samuel J. Green School in New Orleans, which also has an Edible Schoolyard, noted an improvement in eating a "healthful diet and doing well in school" among students at the school since the Edible Schoolyard was established.[11]


  1. ^ Edible Schoolyard Project
  2. ^ Zissu, Alexandra (2023-05-26). "Alice Waters wants to make education edible in Rhinebeck". Times Union. Retrieved 2023-10-13.
  3. ^ "Driving Change in the Food Movement, One Garden at a Time". Food Tank. 2023-02-02. Retrieved 2023-10-13.
  4. ^ "Watch: This restaurant owner is changing the way kids eat". Time. 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2023-09-08.
  5. ^ Belkin, Lisa (2006-08-20). "The School-Lunch Test". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-09-08.
  6. ^ "Network". The Edible Schoolyard Project. 2017-11-02. Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  7. ^ Zissu, Alexandra (2023-05-26). "Alice Waters wants to make education edible in Rhinebeck". Times Union. Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  8. ^ "A garden of hope grows in post-Katrina schoolyard". USA Today. May 4, 2004.
  9. ^ Green, Emily (January 29, 2010). "The Dry Garden: If critics would stop picking on the school garden, they might learn a thing or two". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Severson, Kim (January 19, 2010). "At a Brooklyn School, Weeding, Writing, and Arithmetic". The New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  11. ^ Kummer, Corby (January 15, 2010). "School Gardeners Strike Back". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 31, 2010.

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37°52′57″N 122°16′34″W / 37.88250°N 122.27611°W / 37.88250; -122.27611