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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Edible Schoolyard Project Raises Money in SF for School Lunches Elsewhere

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 9:40 AM

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Ahhh, high school cafeterias. Remember all those gourmet, organically farmed mustard greens? Can you still picture the juicy, locally sourced smoked pulled chicken baguette sandwiches?

Since we haven't relocated our public schools to another galaxy yet, you probably can't.

But those mouthwatering and totally non-cafeteria-grade items will be on the menu at a "School Lunch" hosted by Levi's and Chez Panisse's Alice Waters at Union Square's Maiden Lane this Wednesday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. All of the meal's ingredients will come from local farms, like Happy Quail Farms and Little City Gardens.

The event is part of Waters' Edible Schoolyard Project, which aims to improve the quality of food at public schools and educate students about food through hands-on work.

The program began in Berkeley but recently launched "a national initiative to develop and share edible education curriculum" online, spokesman David Prior says. The lunch has a $5 suggested donation, and proceeds will benefit this initiative, which includes the San Francisco Boys and Girls Club at Hunters Point.

Since attendees will be donating their hard-earned dollars to an initiative based in Berkeley, we figured we would see how the gourmet lunch compared to San Francisco's public schools' own fare.

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To put it bluntly, the menu can't compete with the Edible Schoolyard's gourmet menu's figs, Bronx grapes, and grilled young shallot. While nine-to-fivers enjoy the live music and limited edition t-shirts, local public school students will dine on turkey hot dogs with wheat buns and baked beans or macaroni and cheese with mixed veggies, in addition to carrot muffins and a salad bar. Sounds a bit less like a Chez Panisse menu, doesn't it?

In Berkeley's public schools, about 20 to 30 percent of the food is organic, and almost all of the meals are cooked from scratch, according to Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan. A typical meal from last year's menu included tandoori chicken or veggie estrada, plus samosas, rice, and ginger lentils.

The San Francisco Unified School District's schools, on the other hand, work with a much more meager budget.

"We have less than a dollar to spend on our lunches per student," says Zetta Reicker, assistant director of the San Francisco school district's Student Nutrition Services department. The district does source fruits and veggies locally whenever possible, she says, but the Berkeley district simply has more money to spend, thanks in part to projects like the Edible Schoolyard.

So if you want a great lunch on Wednesday, head over to Union Square. If you want to support your local schools, consider mailing a check to the district office.

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Dean Schaffer

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