From National School Lunch Program to Edible Schoolyard

By: Julianna Lee  

In postwar American public education, the laxity of the USDA’s standards effectively constrained the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to providing only the minimum, packaged nutrition, thus contributing to widespread nutritional deficiencies and an increase in youth obesity across the U.S. Rejecting the inadequate provisions of packaged nutrition, Alice Waters created the Edible Schoolyard (ESY) to integrate nutrition into the curriculum at MLK Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. Evidence suggests that the NSLP and the ESY have each proved independently ineffective in achieving baseline objectives for school nutrition, but may constitute a single effective method when combined. Following the successful example of Waters’ ESY, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) created the Berkeley Public School Gardening and Cooking Program and the Garden-Based Learning Curriculum, combining strategies derived from the NSLP with Waters’ unique curricular combination of food, education, nutrition, and the environment. As seen from analyzing affiliated ESYs at the Green Charter School in New Orleans and the Arturo Toscanini School in Brooklyn, a modified ESY can effectively teach nutrition in diverse regional contexts, albeit with the somewhat limiting precondition that the school community accepts agriculture as part of the the academic curriculum beforehand. Through nutritional objective analysis of recent developments in a series of regionally diverse curricular adaptations of a modified ESY program, this paper argues for a possible single method of effectively spreading nutrition to various state public schools, combining the adaptable NSLP structure and ESY’s more locally-tailored methods.

National School Lunch Program, Edible School Garden, School Nutrition
Food, Nutrition, and Health
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Julianna Lee

United States
United States