May 12, 2015
By Claudia Barker
That’s what the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans is all about. At the five open-admissions public schools managed by the FirstLine charter management organization, we’re working to change the way children eat, learn and live. FirstLine believes that food education is a vital component of preparing our students for success in school and in life. We’re teaching students from kindergarten through high school — the majority of them children of color from low-income families — how to grow food, how to prepare it in healthy ways, and how to enjoy it in community. The program’s aim is to empower generations of New Orleans children to develop and maintain healthy relationships with food, the natural world, themselves and their community.
So why doesn’t America make food education a mandate for all schools? For the same reason we are having such a heated debate over the academic instruction we make available: politics and money. Imagine the outrage if government began demanding that schools allocate resources to school gardens and then really stood up to corporate food giants by insisting on higher consumption of locally grown produce!
But there is a way forward, I believe, and it’s happening at the grassroots level. A local food movement is taking root and gaining momentum, not just among farmers and foodies, but also within the families who visit the widening local network of farmers markets, many of which now accept SNAP benefits.