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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 39 destroy our culture. When you eat food, you eat the values that come with it. So if you’re eating fast food, you’re eating fast, cheap, and easy, and if you’re eating slow food, you’re eating a whole other set of values. Why is obesity so common in North America? Obesity has to do with the availability, al- most the force-feeding, of food that isn’t good for people. We will never solve the problem of obesity when we only talk about food in that fast food way. Food is not just about fueling up. You’re working to make some changes in the American school system. The idea is to institute a curriculum that begins in kindergarten and goes through to high school. This would be an interac- tive program with two labs: a garden and a kitchen. The children would learn how to prepare wholesome, affordable, deli- cious food, and they’d learn how to com- municate at the table. There’s a whole set of values that goes naturally with growing, cooking, and serving food. These include everything from appreciating diversity and interconnectedness to learning about sharing and compassion. This program will bring children into positive new relationships with food. If you just tell kids what not to eat, some will listen but others will just bring junk in their backpacks. Really changing the way kids eat is easy to do when you lure them with the beauty of nature and the art of the table. The organization you started, Chez Panisse Foundation, has already established this kind of program in Berkeley. Yes, for the last twelve years at Martin Luther King Junior Middle School we’ve been working on the Edible Schoolyard. We have both a garden and a kitchen classroom, and they have been integrated into the school curriculum. How is it going? Wonderfully. When children are working in the garden and helping to make their own school lunches, they become invested in a profound way. What they grow and cook, they want to eat, even the squash dishes. When children are eating some- thing delicious, it opens up their senses to the world around them. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Giving kids this opportu- nity shows them that we care. And you also want to establish a school meal program. I want all children to be fed breakfast and lunch at school. There would be tables with children sitting at them and other children serving and cooking. We’ve been desensitized by the fast food world, which says that kitchen work is drudgery. I want to teach kids that work is pleasure. The pleasure of work is the value I care about. This sounds great, but is it practical? The chef Jamie Oliver has exposed the un- satisfactory food in the British school sys- tem, and he has received national attention and money to change it. I’m interested in making that same transformation happen here in the U.S., but I think it’s important that the change be connected to an ed- ible education curriculum. Nobody knows how to cook anymore. Nobody knows how to eat at the table. As many as 85 percent of kids don’t eat one meal a day with their family. So I’m envisioning that we put food education into the curriculum in the same way that we put physical education into the curriculum forty years ago. We built gyms and tracks and hired teachers and spent a lot of money. That’s what we need to do again, but this time centering on food. How does your idea for school meals relate to your passion for the environment? The children would eat locally produced and sustainably farmed food. This would make the schools an economic engine for sustain- able agriculture and slow food values. Is there a spiritual philosophy behind all of your work with food? Yes: food is precious. It’s what we all have in common and it’s a daily practice. ♦ $21.95 hardcover Visit www.shambhala.com to receive a 20% discount on this and over 600 other great books! SEPT 18-39.indd 39 SEPT 18-39.indd 39 7/3/08 1:30:25 PM 7/3/08 1:30:25 PM