Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard: Rethinking School Lunch as Public Education



In this chapter I reframe Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard (ESY) Project at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California, as an innovative work not simply of commercial/school partnership, but of educational thought. Explicitly inspired by Waters’ work as a Montessori teacher and as a restaurant owner prominent in the international Slow Food Movement, ESY is constructing a new paradigm for school lunch in the present climate change era. This new paradigm renovates school lunch’s conceptual continuity with once-canonical thought about children’s schooling, in which deeply gendered foodways have been figured significantly. This theoretical inquiry on ESY concludes with a caution to those who would simply claim school gardening as a new best practice without also providing a social-ethical critique of current school lunch practices.



Thanks to Suzanne Rice for inviting me to participate in the study group on “moral dimensions of school lunch” that she founded in fall 2012 and for editing a special issue of our work for the Journal of Thought 48 (2), which included my article “Bringing Educational Thought to Public School Lunch,” pp. 12–27, from which this chapter grew. Thanks also to Amy Shuffelton for inviting my guest lecture, “Reconfiguring Public Education to Nourish,” which took me to the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, where Liza Siegler and Kyle Cornforth gave me a hospitable and informative tour of its garden and kitchen on April 30, 2013. I am grateful for indispensable assistance that Stefanie Heinrich gave me with the preparation of this manuscript and to the University of Oklahoma for supporting her work in spring 2017 as well as my research travels and sabbatical leave in 2013. Thanks also to Lawrence Baines, Scott Beck, Amy Bradshaw, Michael Brody, John Covaleskie, Bill Frick, John Green, Matthew Lewis, Brad Rowe, A.G. Rud , David Tan, and Nancy Snow, to generous audiences at the American Educational Studies Association (Seattle, November 3, 2012), Philosophy of Education Society (Portland, OR, March 16, 2013), American Educational Research Association’s SIG-Philosophical Studies in Education (San Francisco, April 27, 2013), Society of Philosophy and History of Education (St. Louis, September 30, 2014), and the Values and Leadership conference of the University Council for Educational Administration’s Consortium for the Study of Leadership and Ethics in Education (Pennsylvania State University, Rock Ethics Institute, October 15, 2015), for helpfully critical and otherwise instructive, encouraging responses to early work on this project, whose remaining gaps and flaws are entirely my own. My deep gratitude also to doctoral student leaders Brian Corpening, Julie Davis, and Elizabeth Wilkins in Educational Studies at the University of Oklahoma, who have taught me much about local school lunch cultures and the school-to-prison pipeline, and to students in a graduate School and Society seminar—Tina Bly, Lisa Kennerson Campbell, Krystal Golding-Ross, Elizabeth Kellogg, Micheal Rowley, Laura Sabetelli, Eric Sourie—whose field experiences and original theorizing of hidden curricula in urban school lunchrooms shocked us all with the urgent importance of rethinking school lunch.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OklahomaNormanUSA

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