A new study of school kids by U.C. Berkeley researchers validates what Alice Waters has been preaching for years: Teaching kids about gardening and cooking makes them want to eat more vegetables. The Atlantic reports the news, providing a retort to Caitlin Flanagan’s January hit piece in which she scoffed at the reasoning behind Waters’s Edible Schoolyard program and encouraged the students involved (“our state’s new child farm laborers”) to strike. Among the 238 students tracked in the study who ate from daily menus from Alice’s citywide School Lunch Inititiative (SLI), the kids who also grew and cooked their own vegetables were more knowledgeable about nutrition, ate more fruits and vegetables daily (“including a preference for leafy greens like kale, spinach, and chard”), and had “more positive attitudes about the taste and health value of school lunch.”
“We knew validation of the work was important in order to reach a wider public,” Alice says. “This is one of our first steps in reaching new audiences—particularly the scientific and academic community—and of course we hope it has implications for public policy.” Translation: Suck it, Flanagan.
As for giving Jamie Oliver any fodder in his related crusade to make school kids healthier through school lunches, this study comes up a little short: “There were no detectable differences in academic test scores or body mass index based on differences in SLI exposure.” However, all the kids studied here were eating good lunches, they just weren’t all growing the food.
Berkeley-based writer Sarah Henry acknowledges that Berkeley kids are, relatively speaking, “spoiled.” Maybe it comes with the territory, growing up within blocks or miles of Chez Panisse, that they know a thing or two more than the average American kid about heirloom squashes. But she makes sure to say, “many children here still face problems accessing healthy foods in their homes, and our student body is not immune to hunger, obesity, and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.” So, even though the kids aren’t any thinner, they’re precocious little foodies who are less likely to make faces about spinach.
Berkeley’s New School Food Study: A Victory for Alice Waters [Atlantic]
Earlier: Why Does Alice Waters Inspire So Many Haters? [Grub Street]
Corby Kummer Defends Alice Waters from Mean Caitlin Flanagan [Grub Street]