When she opened her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971, Alice Waters had no plans for pioneering California cuisine or launching the farm-to-table movement across the U.S. But following her passion for market-fresh, seasonal cooking—sparked by a trip to France as a student—led her to work directly with local organic farmers and spotlight the origins of each ingredient on her menu. Those ideals have since reshaped the entire American food landscape, from grocery stores to fine dining restaurants to even the public school system. In 1995, Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, which now includes a network of thousands of schools around the world. Drawing on her training as a Montessori teacher, the non-profit empowers students to grow and cook their own food—and, in the process, addresses issues like climate change, social inequality, and public health. Waters has also been a vocal advocate for national school lunch reform, calling on presidents such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama to promote the benefits of healthy eating. Despite her massive impact and a career that spans more than half a century, the educator, chef, activist, and author has kept a fairly low profile. At 78, she continues to plant seeds of change and is even celebrating a few firsts.
If you want to support the Edible Schoolyard Project, head here (until December 31 an anonymous donor is matching all amounts). You can also learn more about Chez Panisse here.
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