Field Notes, Nonprofits

Edible Schoolyards Help Kids Grow

edible schoolyards

Having revolutionized American cuisine with the launch of her Chez Panisse restaurant in 1971, chef Alice Waters created a second wave of change with her Edible Schoolyards program in 1995. Her first effort served adults; her second, their children. Taken together, her impact has touched us all.

Alice’s philosophy is succinct. We should all be able to eat and have access to fresh, seasonal food. We should understand how our food is grown and where it comes from. Food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, its preparation experienced as pleasure rather than chore.

Fast food, she recently told an audience gathered to support Edible Schoolyard, “tells us that work is drudgery. That more is better. That our natural resources are limitless. That everything should be the same, no matter where we go.”

Loaded with fat, sugar, and salt — fast food is often what children want most. It activates all of our pleasure sensors and quickly overwhelms them, resetting taste buds to exaggerated heights.

Not wanting her own daughter Fanny to grow up eating junk food, and concerned about how other children in her community and beyond were being exposed to poor eating habits that could affect them for life, Alice decided to do something about it.

She convinced the administration at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in her hometown of Berkeley to turn a weedy one-acre parking lot into an experimental garden. Soon came a communal kitchen and a whole new curriculum for teachers and students at King Middle.

Alice knew that math, science, history, humanities, and even technology can all be taught from the garden. Planting, growing, harvesting, and preparing food offers opportunities to explore all of the academic subjects. Students must cooperate and interact; along the way, they gain independence and the satisfaction that engenders.

Dedicated to the ideal of children having a balanced daily meal that is as delicious as it is healthy, Alice helped to establish the School Lunch Initiative for all students across the Berkeley city school system. Over 10,000 students participate each school day. No one is trading Cheeto’s for a PBJ sanny in Berkeley school yards.

Today there are five affiliate Edible Schoolyard programs across the country in places as disparate as New Orleans and San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, and even Greensboro, North Carolina. A study followed students at one school over three years and discovered them to be healthier and better informed than similar students who didn’t have access to a school garden.

Speaking to that same audience raising money for Edible Schoolyard, Alice concluded, “I feel like [fast food has] imprisoned us, depriving us of living harmoniously with nature. Every time we choose what to eat, we’re voting for the kind of world we want.”

Field Notes, Foodshed, Nonprofits

The Challenge of a Plastic-Free SHED

Inspired by the Plastic Free July movement, SHED is taking a closer look at how we use plastic. Plastic Free July is a non-profit whose goal is to eliminate single-use plastic. Their campaign aims to avoid landfill waste, reduce environmental impact, and protect the ocean. SHED faces challenges when it comes to reducing single-use plastic in our kitchens, store, and warehouse. SHED aims to promote a plastic-free lifestyle with our wares as well as through our operations. We have policies in place to reduce our impact, but we can always do more—or in this case, use less.

Plastic Alternatives at SHED

Reducing single-use plastic at SHED is important because we depend on a resilient local food system that is free from harmful pollutants and trash. Single-use plastic items such as cups, straws, cling wrap, and food containers are designed to be used once and then thrown out. Plastic is made from nonrenewable resources, and it does not break down after it is discarded. Part of SHED’s mission is to protect the environment by being good stewards of our local watershed and foodshed. We do this by prioritizing alternatives to single-use plastic and offering recycling and composting.

SHED promotes intentional lifestyles by selling thoughtful, durable reusable products. Our collection of plastic-free wares includes straightforward pieces that can easily be incorporated into your daily life. We also offer several incentives to our guests to opt for reusables. We offer a $0.50 discount for bringing your own reusable vessel to our coffee bar, a $1.00 return for any SHED labeled glass jar, a $0.50 return for our berry baskets.

Challenges of “Plastic-Free”

There are also challenges to going plastic-free at SHED. You will find plastic containers, cling wrap, and latex gloves in our kitchens. As a market and café, we are trying to find ways to ways to reduce this use of plastic without compromising on food safety and convenience for our guests. We are currently working with our vendors to develop plastic-free packaging options for our housewares and pantry goods. However, because we work with handcrafted pieces, fragile items are still often protected with bubble wrap.

Although we are proud of our recycling and compost programs, there is still room for improvement. Composting is a core tenet at SHED because it is the essence of a complete food cycle: food is grown in the soil and then returned to it. Our kitchens compost leftover food scraps which feed a hearty pile at HomeFarm (the farm and home of SHED co-owners Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel).

We also offer compostable produce bags and compostable to-go cups in our store. However, compostable to-go ware is far from perfect. It’s almost always made from genetically modified commodity crops like field corn, the production of which undermines SHED’s core values. Compostable disposables are also widely misconstrued as a one-size-fits-all zero-waste solution. Here in Healdsburg we luckily can send them to an industrial composting center where they do eventually decompose, but many municipal composting programs cannot handle plant-based plastics, nor can they be broken down in a backyard compost pile. Many compostable to-go items, used with good intentions, end up contaminating waste streams or decomposing in greenhouse gas–producing landfills—that’s not what we want. Far and away the best option is to refuse single-use disposables whenever possible, and that’s what we encourage our guests to do.

We have recently begun an audit at SHED to get the full picture of our plastic usage. Before we can make well-informed changes to our daily operations, it is essential that we educate ourselves and our guests about how we use plastic. There will be more obstacles to overcome. We are looking forward to meeting these challenges with the same creativity and mindfulness that go into every aspect of SHED.

Artisan Producers, Chefs, Cooking, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm, Modern Grange, Nonprofits

2015: Hitting Our Groove

Was 2015 the year we hit our groove? It certainly feels like it.

2015 was the year that we welcomed new Culinary Director Perry Hoffman to our kitchen, launched dinner service, and saw a gratifying response from diners and critics alike.

It was the year that we devoted the entire month of October to learning about and immersing ourselves in the art, food, and culture of Japan.


It was another year of Biodynamic agriculture education, of the Brave New Music series, of celebrating the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and of happily hosting site-specific works from the UPside Dance Company in our Grange.

We were fortunate to have such master chefs as Sonoko Sakai, Mamiko Nishiyama, Kyle McConnaughton, Ali Bouzari, Dan Felder, Russell Moore, Alison Hopelain, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, Steven Satterfield, and Thomas McNaughton come cook with us and teach us in 2015.


We hosted communal knitting nights with master crafters on hand to assist, and a communal reading night in which we pulled out our extensive library collection of books on food and agriculture to share. We lit the Grange with candles and had a meditative walk to honor the winter solstice; we filled the Grange with cushions and turned it into an ad hoc zazen for meditation.

We learned to dye cloth using natural materials and dived deeply into the re-emergence of locally grown indigo and its uses.


We ran a cooking class series just for kids and took groups to our beloved Healdsburg Farmers’ Market before feeding them a hearty family-style lunch made from the goodies found there.

We had in-depth beekeeping classes and another workshop on pollinators of all types. (We also built and donated an Insect House that school children love!) We celebrated apples and soil. We learned to make books and about spoon carving.


Frances Moore Lappé spoke to us of hope and foresight. Nicolette Hahn Niman and other experts taught about the importance of raising grass while raising beef. Master ceramicist Shiro Otani made an exclusive U.S. appearance with his wheel to demonstrate the ancient craft he has so gracefully modernized.

We made hot sauce and chocolate, crafted galettes, Shrubs and Shims, and cut enough fresh soba noodles for a (very) small village. We made yogurt and cheese — and sneaked back to taste more.

We showed films about the politics of food, the metaphor of gleaning, the life of the farm. We devoted an entire day to the intricacies of crafting a successful Thanksgiving meal, celebrated the work of the Famers Guild, and helped build the ranks of the North Coast Grain Alliance. West Coast Live returned for two live broadcasts that highlighted some of our favorite local thinkers, activists, and artists and filled our seats to bursting.


Most of all: We gave thanks.

We continue to give thanks. With nearly 80 events enlivening our Grange and retail spaces in 2015, we are thankful to the community that gathers around us, the experts who enlighten us, and the farmers and chefs who feed us. We are thankful to you.

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With full hearts, we thank everyone who reads our newsletter, checks this blog, comes into our store, sips something good at our Fermentation Bar, buys a bunch of our flowers, hangs out at our Coffee Bar, grabs a bite at the Café, and lingers over something special in our retail hall. Together, this community of supporters, learners, eaters, producers, and growers has made 2015 a truly special year for us.

Here’s to an even more spectacular 2016 for all!

With peace and love,

Healdsburg SHED