Edible NOLA

Edible NOLA

A new charter school is embracing “eco-gastronomy”–a holistic curriculum based around food–hoping “to renew New Orleans one okra plant and one child at a time.”


Ten years strong at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California, Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard is sprouting new growth at the Samuel J. Green Charter School in New Orleans, the site of Waters’s first full-blown satellite program. Waters calls the visionary curriculum “eco-gastronomy.” It teaches the whole child through some of the most basic human endeavors: gardening, cooking, serving and eating. The Edible Schoolyard isn’t about having a little garden–it’s a radical program meant to address issues of hunger, health and sustainability.

And it works. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, after only one year students at King demonstrated improved behavior, fewer emotional problems, higher grade-point averages and a better grasp of ecology.

The Edible Schoolyard, Waters says, “teaches children their moral obligation to be caretakers and stewards of the finite resources of our planet. And it teaches them the joy of the table, the pleasures of real work and the meaning of community.

“School gardens turn pop culture upside down: They teach redemption through a deep appreciation for the real, the authentic and the lasting–for the things that money can’t buy: the very things that matter most of all if we are going to lead sane, healthy and sustainable lives,” she explains.

Surely, post-Katrina New Orleans is sorely in need of the real, the authentic and the lasting. Like everything else in the city, our renowned and unique indigenous food culture is in jeopardy. That’s why the curriculum includes an oral history component. Students learn local classics like red beans and rice and gumbo, grow some of the ingredients themselves and interview their parents about how they cook these dishes and how their parents cooked them. “We hope to renew New Orleans one okra plant and one child at a time,” says Green principal Tony Recasner.

Recasner, a psychologist and former Loyola University faculty member, opened Green School in January–four months after Katrina. Of the 400 children in grades K-8, 99 percent are African-American, 75 percent are from single-parent homes and the vast majority (95 percent) qualify for the federal free-lunch program. Although development of the garden and the kitchen classroom will take time, food is already a critical part of the Green School curriculum. Students will be involved in planning the garden and will visit with local farmers and chefs. And cafeteria food purchased from Louisiana farmers will insure that they eat “fresh and local” while the school puts down roots in its community.

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