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Deb's Writings

Edible Schoolyard

School Gardens are a Growing Trend

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
With cockleshells and silver bells and pretty maids all in a row.

When that 18th century rhyme was written, nearly every home-even in urban areas- had a garden that provided the basics of daily meals and sustenance to keep the family alive and healthy through the winter. Every child in the family helped with weeding and watering, harvesting and cooking. Children grew up outdoors with physical work and play. They ate what they grew, and learned about the world as they worked on the business of daily living.

The garden at my aunt’s farm was five generations old. It was planted in the 1840’s by the first settlers in the area, and had sprawled to a quarter acre by the time I was old enough to tell the difference between a plant and a weed, and was put to work.

Once in the garden, I ceased being a fussy city kid and became an omnivore. I loved to coax sweet little baby carrots out of the ground, rub the dirt off on my shorts and crunch away, or feel around in the earth for marble-sized new potatoes to eat. We’d nibble on little ruffled salad greens, or pull a fistful of baby turnips and eat those, or throw them at each other’s heads. Pea vines, all lacy and curled, offered irresistibly crunchy peas tucked into their little cocoons-far tastier raw than even boiled with a lump of butter.
My aunt made jam from tiny, seedy raspberries, full of the taste of sun, that grew on lush, spiky canes that arched over our heads. Outside her kitchen window, a peach tree basked in the radiated heat from the brick wall of the cook shed and grew peaches so velvety and fragrant they made you dizzy; those she poached in heavy syrup and set the jars along wooden shelves in the stone-walled cellar, capturing the golden taste of summer all winter long.

By late July, there was corn and asparagus, pole beans and early tomatoes, radishes and baby onions, and small, soft, dark-red strawberries, so ripe that they burst in your mouth.

Oh, what a paradise it seemed. And how few of our children today will ever get to know the taste of a gritty-sweet carrot, right out of the ground? Things have changed dramatically: how we live and especially, how we eat.

In America today, we eat too much and do too little. As a result, too many kids are turning into piñatas: round and sturdy on the outside, but full of junk on the inside.

The outlook for our little pudge muffins is alarming. Half the state’s schoolchildren fail their annual fitness test, and a third of them are overweight. The net result is that our children are looking less like Tom Sawyer and a lot more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Kids loll in front of video games and television shows instead of playing outside or doing chores. Supermarkets are full of fat-laden, heavily processed and chemically enhanced packaged foods that are also very expensive.

Millions of dollars a year are spent advertising sugar and fat-laden ‘foods’ to our children via television advertising and ‘placement’ (including, shockingly, in schools themselves,) to the point where some children don’t understand the difference between orange soda and orange juice, or potatoes and potato chips.

It gets worse. The California Center for Public Health Advocacy states unequivocally that if we don’t change our ways, our children are at extraordinary risk in later life for developing the nation’s top four killer diseases: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.


Given the choice, any self-respecting child will choose flaming McCrispies and chocolate sugar bombs over a carrot. (I didn’t have the choice.) The food industry has our human senses precisely analyzed, designing edible (or at least non-toxic)substances exactly engineered to make you crave their products. Children’s’ taste buds, in particular, are wired to respond almost addictively to those unhealthy extremes of texture, sugar, salt and fat.

The school gardens can teach urban kids, who may not have a yard of their own, what really fresh food tastes like, re-educating their palates and encouraging healthy eating habits. The difference between real food and fast food first must be experienced and assimilated. The garden can teach about judging food quality: this berry tastes better than that berry. It can demonstrate a different way of life, and change priorities.

For teachers, there’s the opportunity to teach holistically about sciences, food, nutrition and the environment. Gardens demonstrate the interlacing of life sciences: biology, agronomy, climate, botany, and humanity’s role- a big picture of the environment. Gardens teach recycling, composting, water conservation, organic growing versus dumping chemicals onto food. It can teach kids that there are ‘good’ bugs as well as bad ones. They learn that our environment must be healthy, protected and respected.

In a garden, any child will begin to sense the generous force of nature that can magically make a seed grow and bear fruit, giving them something good to eat. And they gently learn about the unmasterable mystery that gives to each living thing a span of days, and then gathers it back. They learn about seasons and cycles, responsibility and reward, loss and acceptance, endings and beginnings. They learn about patience. They learn that failures can often be plucked up and tossed on the compost heap to nurture something else.

But is school the place for this? Are gardens an effective tool for learning or just a sentimental, Rockwellian fantasy?

“The garden is the ultimate way to teach, and can teach us a lot of lessons,” says Janice Duvall of The Green Machine, a mobile project from the San Diego County Office of Education which presents interactive workshops on gardening at county schools.

“The world is our garden,” Duvall says. “We need to learn to take care of it.”


One person who could assure you that there’s nothing wrong with an emotional attachment to gardens would be legendary chef Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Waters’ dedication to produce from small farms and backyard gardens sparked the birth of California cooking 30 years ago. She is still very much a part of this small, green revolution, because of a rundown school she drove by every day on the way to her restaurant.

“I got thinking,” she said,” about what could be done for this school.” So several years ago, Waters and a dedicated cadre of parents, teachers and gardeners adopted the blighted elementary school in Oakland, and worked something amazing.

In a few years, the schoolyard was literally in bloom with healthy vegetable gardens which the kids themselves, aided by volunteers, watered, weeded and harvested. Like rabbits, the students started to nibble on what they grew: a pea here, a lettuce leaf there, and before you could say Jack Sprat, they were avidly eating what they had snubbed only months before: fresh greens and tomatoes, corn and beans, herbs and lettuces. Not only would they taste, they began to get interested in preparing and cooking what they had grown.

Waters claims that the whole tone of the school was transformed as well, from the ground up, from another tired urban school to a school community bursting with pride and accomplishment. Her photo presentation of this project to a group of hardened women chefs at the 2000 Women Chefs and Restaurateurs convention in San Francisco had most of the attendees snuffling into tissues by the end.

Waters’ school garden experiment, along with the successes of many other schools, demonstrates that even in the most difficult setting, kids are happy to get their hands dirty. Most important, as any parent knows, a child will eat anything they help to grow and prepare. In the process, they will set the healthy eating patterns of a lifetime.


The Friendship Garden at Pacific Beach Elementary school is a tiny dirt patch tucked into a remote corner of the huge asphalt schoolyard. A not-very-scary scarecrow guards the whitewashed archway between two raised beds. There are a couple of benches in the middle of the dirt patch, and someone has painted and hung colorful wooden butterflies on the high chain link fences surrounding the yard. Earlier in the year, the boxes were planted with sunflowers and herbs, pole beans and tomatoes, herbs and corn. A huge cotton bush thrives in the heat and dust of this remote corner.

It’s a peaceful place, though located about as far away as one can get from the door to the school cafeteria. Symbolic, perhaps, of the changing relationship between old-style food service and the new trend towards fresh and healthy.

Kim Schoettle is the school’s ‘garden mom.’ She grew up in Indiana with a down-to-earth mother who taught her the names and care of plants. She became interested in the school garden when her first child started school four years ago A gardener herself, Schoettle believes that merely exposing kids to the outdoors and growing things has a beneficial effect.

“We want to help them develop a wonder and appreciation of nature. We want more hands-on learning. We get science kits from the district, but if the kids are out there learning hands-on and experiencing the garden they learn much better.”

Parent docents lead groups of children into the garden to plant, weed, harvest and taste, or just sit and enjoy. Schoettle has hosted popular tastings of pizza herbs and Mexican herbs, and other events designed to work with the school’s curriculum.

“We just want to expose kids to the outdoors, says Schoettle. “We’ve had kids scared to death to hold an earthworm. Some don’t even know how to put a plant in the ground. One planted the whole pot.”
. Her ultimate goal is to find a place where the teachers can work the garden into their teaching, using it for learning as well as fun.

“Teachers are overwhelmed anyway,” she observes.

The PBE garden began in 1999 when a group of parents raised seed money from local service groups and state agencies to build the raised beds and install a low-water xeriscape garden by the north entrance to the schoolyard. Five years later, Schoettle’s wish list is long, and funds are short. The biggest problems are funding and getting enough volunteer hours. She has a lengthy list of needed equipment.

Schoettle envisions a much larger garden, close to the center of the schoolyard with a stand of shade and fruit trees, four larger beds, and picnic tables for outdoor classes: an oasis of greenery and cool when heat shimmers off the school asphalt. That will take fundraising, donations of time and equipment, and the school district’s go-ahead. Schoettle isn’t fazed in the least.

She says,” Kids need to understand the origins of what they eat and wear – the whole big picture of their environment. The garden is the best place for them to learn this.”


The California Department of Education passed a resolution in 1995 calling for every school in the state to have a garden. In fact, governments at every level, from local to federal, have existing programs to promote school gardens and farm-to-school links.

These multiple sources frequently have little or no communication with each other, and schools and parents are left to flounder through a bewildering thicket of ideas, options, guidelines and standards– none of which actually offer funding to actually build a garden, which can be expensive; Kim Schoettle estimates that her garden cost around $2000 in 1999, and they have received no further grants.

The Pacific Beach Elementary garden, like all San Diego school gardens, does not receive any official funding or maintenance assistance from the school district. School gardens were created at Memorial and Roosevelt Middle schools under a state LEAF grant (since expired) but most schools create their gardens independently, relying on donations and volunteer hours.

Janice Duvall, of the County Office of Education, suggests that interested schools first study gardening basics. Her program, The Green Machine, presents interactive workshops on composting, soil building, friendly bugs, water conservation and sustainable gardening. Her office works closely with the University of California Cooperative extension Master Gardener program as well as the Farm Bureau and Environmental Services. After the initial contacts, Duvall suggests partnering with a teaching farm like Tierra Miguel.

Schoettle has worked with the Way To Grow! Program of the National Gardening Association. California Ag in the Classroom and San Diego Ag in the Classroom are other garden/farm programs designed to work with the state curriculum.


Some California school districts have gone out of their way to embrace the use of school gardens. The Santa Monica Malibu School District underwrites large gardens at each of its 14 elementary schools. Garden products are actually harvested and served in the school cafeteria, and small local farms are able to sell their produce directly to the school food services division.

At the Santa Monica Farmers Market, children from district elementary schools are led through a tasting of unusual foods and given guided tours of the market, where they can mingle with famous chefs as they buy for their restaurants. Registered dieticians from the County of Los Angeles are on hand every week, providing information to shoppers on nutritional programs such as the 5-a-Day program.

On a visit in May of this year, a group of second-graders from a local school tasted pea shoots, artichokes, fingerling potatoes and baby carrots while across the street, raw foods guru Juliano cavorted in pink nylon with red-gold Rainier cherries hung over his ears, serving raw food ‘tacos’ in red cabbage leaves. This would be a hard act to follow anywhere, but it seems to be particularly challenging in San Diego.

Creating such a direct link between local farms and city schools would be next to impossible here, suggests Joanne Tucker, food services marketing director for San Diego City Schools.
The sheer size of the project is overwhelming. SDCS supplies 130 elementary schools – nearly 10 times as many as Santa Monica. San Diego County farmers, most of whom are small specialty farmers, would find it difficult to produce the massive amounts needed by the school district on a predictable and consistent basis. And schools are not allowed to buy outside or run their own food services.

Also, says Tucker, “We have to pay our own way.” The school district receives only 23 cents per student for free or low-income meals, which form a high percentage of total students in San Diego.
To save money, San Diego City Schools purchases actual tons of heavily subsidized ‘commodity’ foods. Help may be on the way: the state Department of Agriculture is getting on the fresh food bandwagon, with a program set to roll out which will put California fruit and vegetables into California schools.


“The real goal, “Tucker says, “is getting kids to try new foods.” If having a school garden or visiting a farm makes kids more open-minded, the district is all for it.

“You can bring a kid to salad, but you can’t make them eat,” she says. “We’re fighting a lot of bad habits.”

Tucker occasionally transforms herself into an apple or banana (“Whatever I feel in tune with that day,” she deadpans,) to lead an intrepid group of city schools employees dressed as fruits and vegetables while they perform ‘The 5-A- Day Rap’ before delighted audiences at school functions and assemblies.

“After the rap,” says Tucker, “the fruits and vegetables just sort of hang out with the kids and give them high fives.”

Their hope is to make eating good food seem both fun and desirable – to make it as “cool” to eat an apple as it is to eat junk food. The food services theme is, in fact, “It’s cool to eat in school.”

In January 2003, San Diego City Schools introduced Kids Choice Cafes: fresh salad bars five days a week to all 130 elementary schools. Today, every elementary schoolchild can choose from 4 hot entrees, then go to the Kid’s Choice salad bar for salad and fresh toppings, which vary frequently and always include a seasonal ‘fruit of the month’ such as blood oranges, watermelon or tangerines. The Kids Choice Newsletter goes home with the menu for the month and offers tips on healthy eating for the whole family.

“The whole idea is to get the kids involved in making those healthy choices for themselves,” Tucker says. “When kids can no longer get their flaming nachos at school, they simply select something else. Maybe on the way home they’ll stop and buy junk food, but at school they made a healthier choice.”


Convincing people to change for life takes more than dancing vegetables, classroom lectures and government press releases. Lasting change demands buy-in on an emotional level (one might say a gut level.) After all, it’s not what you do some of the time that matters—it’s what you do most of the time.

Parents know that it’s probably easier to grow a garden with cockleshells and silver bells than it is to get kids to eat food that’s good for them. Educators, nutritionists and parents are finding that one of the most effective ways to teach healthy eating habits is getting kids (and parents) literally back in touch with real food.

In the end, there’s a good argument that people who teach and people who grow things have a lot in common. The farmer who plants a vineyard or an olive tree, who teaches the skill of growing, gives an unconditional gift to future generations. The teacher may plant ideas in students, or instill a passion that blossoms years later. It’s sowing the future for more than just food.


The road to Tierra Miguel farm winds from the I-15 at Fallbrook up a steep and stony valley, past historic Gomez Creek and Warner Ranch, past the starkly anachronistic mega-story Pala casino, and finally into the Pauma Valley at the foot of Mount Palomar.

Bison and horses lounge by white board fences. A hand-lettered sign nailed to a fence offers lessons in tango argentine. Oranges glow like Chinese lanterns among the green leaves of countless trees behind white board fences. For most of Tierra Miguel’s student visitors, this countryside is a world away from their neighborhoods and schools.

Hats are de rigueur today: all kinds of hats. Wide-brimmed straw lifeguard hats, canvas slouch hats and those Lawrence of Arabia-style caps with neck flaps that mothers pick out and children hate. It’s barely 10 am and already over 90 degrees, and though there isn’t a breath of air or a cloud in the sky, the rocky hills are vibrantly flushed with leafy scrub, and the 86 acres of Tierra Miguel farm stretch out on all sides in a haze of a hundred shades of green. It’s spring, and there’s plenty of work to do.

Past the nascent orchard or peaches and apricots, not far from the farm trailer, second and third graders from the Waldorf School of San Diego are lined up on either side of a long heaped row of earth, planting spindly young plants. The children carefully settle each wobbling stem into holes, then scoop and pack the earth around the pots. The earth is dark and crumbly moist beneath the dry powdery surface. The students have dirt up to their elbows, streaking their faces with sweat and sunscreen. Several mothers hover, applying more sunscreen.

“These are sunchokes,” farm teacher Robert Farmer says to the children working beside him. He is wearing shorts, sturdy boots, a wide-brimmed hat and a thin layer of grey dust. “These are a special kind of plant that nobody else has. It has a kind of carbohydrate that diabetics can use. They’re very special.”

The kids nod, showing varying degrees of interest. It’s hot, and some people are fooling around and talking instead of working. Farmer lines the class up to help stretch a long line of black drip irrigation tape. He patiently coaches them through the steps of straightening, turning, and sealing off the drip line, then hands out an array of fierce-looking rakes, hoes and shovels.

Immediately there’s some non-specific, vigorous shoveling in one area, but the kids set to work grooming the sides of the rows. The Waldorf School has its own garden, so most have some inkling of what they’re doing, though Tierra Miguel shows it to them on a much larger scale.

Farmer supervises the grooming, packing a little more earth here and there, coaching a child on the use of a cultivator while working himself with quick, efficient motions.

“I like them to get their hands on everything, and really feel what they’re doing,” he explains. He points to the young fruit trees behind him. “When Roosevelt school came out, they pruned the orchard. Now the trees are leafed out and making fruit. It would be great if they can come back and see the results.”

Tierra Miguel hosts about two dozen schools a year on day outings like this, where elementary and middle school kids can spend a day or two learning about composting, planting, watering and harvesting. The certified organic teaching farm also offers internships to post-graduate agriculture students from around the world. The not-for-profit foundation offers programs in organic, biodynamic and sustainable gardening and agriculture.

The farm supports itself through various grants, donations and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA,) which is a kind of seasonal produce timeshare in which members pay a fee and receive a weekly box of fresh-from-the-farm produce.

Farmer (his real name) is Educational Program Director. His vision is to create an integrated learning cycle linking farm visits, school garden development and learning, and hands-on culinary technique- a program he calls FACTS: Farmers And Chefs, Teachers and Students. He worked with Memorial and Roosevelt middle schools to create school gardens as part of the state LEAF grant.
He’s upbeat about how farms and schools can work together. “This program can be very enriching, and support the classroom in a positive way, while teaching these kids some real life basics in a hands-on way.” He turns again to the very hands-on students, who are almost finished planting.
Soon the sunchoke plants are tucked into surprisingly neat, even rows, and the drip tape is delivering water. Farmer calls the group to the end of the row for a lesson in farm math.

He tips up a wheelbarrow of compost and moves it one side. “We planted about 100 sunchokes today,” he says. “Each of these plants is grown from one tuber, and every one of these plants you put in the ground today will make about 10 new tubers. So when we harvest, how many new plants can we make?”

Hands shoot up. “1000 plants,” says one.

“That’s a lot!” someone says.

Farmer continues. “And when we plant the 1000 new tubers, and they each make 10 tubers, how many plants will we be able to grow?”

“100,000!” a boy calls out and his friends roll their eyes. “Ten thousand,” says a blond child in a straw hat, smugly.

Everyone is suitably impressed by their morning’s work. Farmer says, “Before it gets too hot, let’s go pick our strawberries. After snack we’re going to plant the Three Sisters (Native American style mound plantings of corn, beans and squash) and then we’ll visit the goats. Now-let’s put our rakes back in the pile over here. And remember, always put the points down.”

Even one generation ago, most of these children would have known to set a rake with points down, Today, things are different.

“We had a school out last week, and most of those kids had never been on a farm before,” Farmer says, as he leads the way to the strawberry fields. “They had grown one huge carrot in their school garden, as long as my forearm, and they all had their pictures taken with it.”

A girl, overhearing, pipes up to no one in particular. “How come we can’t harvest carrots like yesterday?”

Her friend gives her a playful shove. “Because they aren’t ready yet.”

“But they were soooo good.”

There’s a lazy drone from planes taking off and landing at the small airfield nearby as the group trudges up the dusty road to the strawberry fields. The air is alive with bugs and birdsongs. White butterflies flutter and fall over a field of dark green cabbages.

The strawberry field is full of bees, working the tiny white flowers, undisturbed by the children. The students fan out, each with a stack of clear plastic clamshells to fill.

“Remember to pick the dark red ones, and look at it before you pick it to make sure it doesn’t have any white spots or brown spots,” Farmer calls out. The children are serious and careful, lifting the thick green leaves to reveal the red fruit below, examining each berry before picking it and adding it to their collection. It’s like a relaxed, quiet Easter egg hunt.

“Ms. Austin!” urgently calls a boy, who crouches bareheaded under the merciless sun. Heide Austin, the Waldorf teacher, hurries over.

“Look, there’s a whole family here of strawberries, big ones and little ones. And this one’s the grandfather. He’s all shriveled up.”

When the clamshells are full, Farmer writes each child’s name on his or her boxes with a felt-tip pen.

“What’s your name?” a boy asks Farmer.

“Mr. Farmer,” Farmer replies.

The boy shakes his head. “I mean your real name,” he repeats.

Farmer smiles. “That is my name.”

But now the students have discovered a trap with a dead ground squirrel up the road, and the strawberries – and Farmer’s real identity—are forgotten. The stiff grey body dangles at the end of the chain as the bravest of the boys swings it around. “Drop it,” says Ms. Austin. Exploration of nature only goes so far, even at a Waldorf School.


The Waldorf School is located in one of San Diego’s grittier areas. The neighbors keep large dogs, and most houses have bars on their windows. But at the pink-painted school, beds of bright flowers and scented herbs greet visitors and fill the corners of the parking lot and offices. Outside Morning Glory Room, where the preschoolers and parents gather, there’s a luscious smell of cooking applesauce and ripe bananas. Hand-knit objects are everywhere, and one suspects that there are more than the usual numbers of Birkenstocks in the area.

By the school garden, six glossy chickens, one with a magnificent pompadour, strut with the confidence known by only by animals that spend their days at a vegetarian facility.

The educational philosophy of Waldorf schools is based on hands-on learning, and incorporates a holistic approach to gardening and food in its curriculum. There is no cafeteria; Waldorf students cook their own lunch every day in the primary grades, beginning with preschool, and the upper grades bring lunch from home in a wicker basket.

The school garden is more than just a part-time project. It’s the heart of the second and third grade curriculum, which puts the emphasis on practical living, farming and building. The chickens are the wards of this class. The school garden is their responsibility. They will learn to shear wool and card, spin and weave it; they all already know how to knit and crochet. There’s a small model of an adobe house, and the students will make adobe bricks and learn the basic principles of building. They will spend time at Tierra Miguel, learning how a farm works.

Outside by the their garden, the class is practicing their end-of-year play.

“Mother Earth, Father Sun,” they sing. “Sister Rain, Brother Wind, ” as the dreaming ‘seeds’ on stage pretend to transform themselves into beautiful blossoms. A tall boy unfolds himself, and steps forward. “I,” he proclaims proudly,” am a pussy willow.” His classmates introduce themselves variously as other plants and flowers, then break into a rousing game of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
Back in their classroom, teacher Heide Austin leads them through drawing exercises about seeds and the cycle of growth. The room is full of plant and farm references: pine cones, hand-woven baskets, seeds, birds’ nests and a print of The Gleaners. There’s a sense of respect, almost of veneration, of nature.

During these two years, the students each make a garden book and a cookbook while learning about the farm cycle of preparation, planting, growing, weeding and harvesting. Their garden books are large and colorful, decorated with sprawling vines and flowers. In multi-colored writing are carefully drawn garden plans and a long paragraph of earthworm facts and habits.

Other pages demonstrate how to make compost and mix sand and clay to make soil, plus this note: “On December 9th 03 we seeded the bed and on February 5 we harvested butter lettuce, green leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, beet leaves, mustart (sic) leaves and one big white radish.”

There are simple rhymes and more drawings.

Four seeds in a hole /
One for the rook, one for the crow/
And one to rot
And one to grow.

“The chickens ate all our plants,” a student reminisces back in the classroom. “That was before the water went away and everything died. But most everything was harvested.”

“It was fun spraying the bugs,” a boy reminisces.

“Are anybody’s earthworms still alive?” a girl asks.

“Mine are,” says a curly-haired girl. “The ones in my grandma’s garden are still alive.”

Ms Austin asks, “Who remembers how many earthworms it takes to make an acre of earth fertile?”

Everyone knows the answer—it takes one million. They are completely comfortable with the concepts of growing and recycling, watering and harvesting, of necessary loss and the cycle of life.

Out at the garden, the chickens have escaped their coop and are pecking at bugs on the ground. A third-grader shows off three heaps of compost, describing how the quality of the compost changes with age. The garden itself is done for the year, but plans are afoot for next season’s planting.

“We’ll have a better garden next year because our compost will be better,” she observes. She sprays a trail of red ants with cayenne spray (the Waldorf garden is, of course, organic). while efficiently herding the chickens out of the garden and back into their coop with one sneakered foot.

A younger child runs to show a freshly laid egg, discovered out on the playground while the hens enjoyed their brief moments of freedom. The egg is translucent and still warm. She cradles it gently in both hands, beaming.


Chew on these facts:

  • Only 2% of children in the USA eat a diet that meets all the recommendations of the USDA food Pyramid.
  • Less than 20% eat the recommended servings of vegetables, and less than 15% get the right amount of fruit.
  • In the nation, 1 in 5 children is overweight. Childhood obesity has increased by more than 50% since 1984.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, one-third of all children in the US will become diabetic unless “serious changes are made to their eating habits.”
  • In California, two-thirds of all deaths result from four chronic diseases: diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • Between 1966 and 2000, the prevalence of overweight among children 12 to 19 has tripled.

This is an epidemic, and California schools are acting.

Passed in 2001, SB-19 (officially known as The Pupil Health and Achievement Act) sets limits on, or eliminates, on-campus sales of sodas, candy, high-fat and sugary foods, replacing them with baked, low sugar items, sports beverages, and water, thus ending the contentious programs that put soda machines on school campuses. It also increased the reimbursement to schools for free and low-cost meals from 13 cents to a whopping 23 cents.

According to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, “There is virtually unanimous agreement that one of the most effective ways to prevent chronic diseases is to establish policies that encourage children and adolescents to develop healthy eating and exercise habits they can maintain throughout their lives.”

With this in mind, SB-19 created a series of grants known as LEAF (Linking Education, Activity and Food.) Two San Diego middle schools participated: Roosevelt and Memorial. . A commitment was made by both schools to create an environment where a healthy lifestyle was encouraged, taught and made accessible.

The purpose of the grants was to see if school food services could survive fiscally if they changed their approach to food.

Salad bars were installed. Juice, milk and water were offered, and sodas eliminated, as were fried and high-fat foods. Chips and candy were removed from ala carte sale and replaced with baked and healthier alternatives. School wide nutritional education was incorporated, in the form of the Eat Fit curriculum by the Cooperative Extension. Physical activities and sports programs were added before and after school. School gardens were created with the help of Tierra Miguel Foundation, and students from both school visited Tierra Miguel.

The results? According to Brenda Reynosa, fruit and vegetable consumption increased between 19% and 24%, possibly more. Juice consumption increased by a whopping 24% to 42%. The less easily measured effects will have to wait to be seen.

While every San Diego elementary school has its own fresh salad bar, making the jump to secondary school will be far more costly, since nearly every school will need new equipment and kitchen redesign in order to serve more healthy foods. The district has applied for further grants, a waiting game.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on children’s health.

“One other aspect of this issue,” points out Reynoso, “Is the ‘portion distortion’ that has occurred in America – people believing that super-sized portions are normal portions.

“I often have principals, parents, students tell me the portions are too small when in fact they are the normal portions that Americans should be eating. Is it any wonder we’re overweight/obese?”



I treasure my 1946 edition of A Cookbook for Girls and Boys by Irma S. Rombauer, who was also the brains behind Joy of Cooking. For a children’s cookbook, it was very sophisticated, with recipes quite as challenging as a good many of today’s adult cookbooks (not a ‘funny face’ sandwich or pizza in the whole book.) I like how the recipes are written, with the steps and ingredients in sequence. Kids will enjoy making and eating this simple, delicious homemade jelly, and be thankful it isn’t a nice Prune Whip.

Place in a bowl:
¼ cup cold water
Stir in:
1 ½ tablespoons (4 teaspoons) unflavored Knox gelatine powder

Combine in a saucepan, stir, then boil for 3 minutes:
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar

Pour the hot syrup over the soaked gelatin, stirring well with a spoon to dissolve the gelatin. Cool the mixture.

Combine in a bowl, then add to the cooled mixture:
¾ cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
¼ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Pour the jelly into a mold that has been rinsed with cold water. Chill it in the refrigerator. Unmold it onto a plate.

From: A Cookbook for Boys and Girls, by Irma S. Rombauer


Food plays a big part in a Waldorf education. Preschool, kindergarten and first grade prepare their own lunch every day. Second and third graders make a personal cookbook, carefully copied and embellished, and they are expected to cook the recipes at home. This one was rated “pretty good” by the students.

2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon powdered ginger

2 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 1/3 cups melted butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup raspberries or other berries, tossed with a little bit of the flour


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix dry and wet ingredients separately in two bowls.
Combine both bowls. Add raspberries.
Stir batter with rubber spatula
Spoon batter into lined muffin tines
Bake for 25 minutes.

From the Waldorf School of San Diego


After learning about the importance of corn to early Americans, and planting the ‘Three Sisters’ at Tierra Miguel, Waldorf students copied this recipe into their personal cookbooks and drew beautiful pictures of corn on the page.

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients.
Add milk, then eggs to dry ingredients.
Melt the butter in a 9” by 13” pan
Add melted butter to the batter and stir.
Pour batter into pan
Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes.

From the Waldorf School of San Diego

Garden Connections On-Line


Rancho La Puerta

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1000 Tacos

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