Transforming School Lunch

Slow Food Waters
 
Food activist Alice Waters wants to reintroduce slow food and 'School Lunch as an Academic Subject'
to combat a culture consumed by fast food values.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers
 
Alice Waters, chef, food activist and founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., performed an experiment at a Slow Food Nations Denver luncheon today by feeding attendees her idea to make school lunch part of academia. “I could almost think it’s the most important day for me of my life because this is an idea that I want to feed you,” she said. “The idea is as old as civilization. It’s an idea of students eating together at school.”
 
Because 85 percent of children in the United States don’t have one meal with their families, Waters envisions taking some minutes from the academic day and apply them to the lunch hour. Local middle schoolers are learning about Mexico and studying in their garden classroom the “Three Sisters” way of farming, which include squash, corn and bean crops. These items were used to make our lunch, which included corn tamales, heritage beans with cream, grilled zucchini with oregano and salad.  
 
IMG 0468“Maybe you are having a conversation at your table about all the varieties of bean, corn and squash there are, but this is a way that we could really find the time and attention to digest the values of slow food,” Waters said. “It’s very difficult when we don’t have time and attention because fast food values have taken over our lives and the world. What better place to bring children back to their senses and a place of equality? This could spark a revolution for school-supported agriculture. Imagine that.” 
 
Eight people were seated per table and each person chose which item they were going to grab for the table. For those who didn’t grab an item, they were in charge of filling water glasses and setting the table. The group of 500 was able to begin eating in five minutes. The form and content of the meal illustrated Waters’ vision for school lunch in America. 
 
The content showed making an investment in children and rural communities with public education reinventing rural economies around future-driven agriculture that feeds children. The form in which lunch was served was to highlight the manner in which children are treated, which the group says should be humans at the table rather than cogs in a wheel because meals are social and intellectual experiences. 
 
Walters believes school gardens are not simply standalone activities for schools, but rather the first step to transform the classroom, cafeteria and national priorities for kids who are otherwise bombarded with fast food values, according to her bio on the Slow Food website
 
The Big Idea
Carlo Petrini and a group of activists founded the idea of slow food in the 1980s with the goal of defending regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life. Over the years, the concept has evolved to recognize the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture. 
 
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization that focuses on preventing the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteracting the rise of fast food and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how food choices affect the world us. There are more than 150 chapters today in the United States and the global movement has grown to involve millions of people in more than 160 countries. 
 
“There are 50,000 slow food gardens all over the world,” Petrini said. “Making it part of the curriculum is an extraordinary idea. We have to take it all over the world. For every student and child to eat lunch and understand inside the lunch is history, education and spirituality is an idea everyone must spread. These children, through the educational experience, will acquire responsibility and consciousness to be responsible citizens.”
 
Children learn from the gardens in schools and take the education home to their parents, Petrini added. “Only knowledge can set us free,” he said. “This knowledge is the education aspect of the school lunch.”
 

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