Vocal on Local: How Alice Waters Changed the World

All she really wanted to do was feed her friends. So in 1971, 27 and freshly returned from a life-altering stay in France, Alice Waters opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkley, California. She didn’t necessarily intend to cause a culinary revolution, but still, that is exactly what she did. These days you can’t pick up a magazine or read a menu without some chef, editor, or writer extolling the virtues of “eating locally, eating seasonally, and/or eating organically.”  Waters’ commitment at the time seemed a little crazy and most assuredly daunting, but it has inspired a whole generation of chefs, home cooks, and regular folks to care about where and how what they eat is grown.

Today Alice Waters is 63 and still passionate about what we eat, however, now, she has expanded the scope of her initial quest to include the next generation. In 1996 Waters established the Edible Schoolyard Project at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkley. There students tend and harvest the school garden and, quite literally, have a stake in what they eat for lunch each day because they’ve grown it. In 2006 a second Schoolyard was launched in New Orleans at Samuel Green Charter School. Waters says, “What we are calling for is a revolution in public education – a real Delicious Revolution. When the hearts and minds of our children are captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with experience in the garden, sustainability will become the lens through which they see the world.” 

Alice Waters is a muse and a fury who has charged herself with the challenge to change the way our children eat. In the past year she has published a cookbook The Art of Simple Eating which looks to be as influential as Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was for a previous generation. Waters has confronted the mayor of Chicago as well as the mayor of Oxford, Mississippi to affect change, and continues her quest with a fire in her eyes, a touch of flint in her soft-spoken voice, and ever the free-spirit – a dance in her step.

You can learn more about the Edible Schoolyard Project at www.edibleschoolyard.org