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A Bounty of Slow Food in School Garden Programs

Slow Food Nations, Day 3: Having missed the excitement of Chef Waters’ delegate luncheon, we took the opportunity to attend the “Gardens Galore” panel discussion which included Ron Finley, Kimbal Musk and Slow Food International Vice President, Alice Waters. Each shared their passion in working with students through the programs they helped create.


“I don’t grow food. I grow people,” 
Ron Finley opened the discussion. 

Finley’s Gangsta Gardener program began when he became determined to change South Los Angeles from food desert to food forest. . . to give kids a chance to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. Ron envisions a world where gardening is gansta, where cool kids know their nutrition and where communities embrace the act of growing, knowing and sharing the best of the earth’s fresh-grown food.

Ron Finley
(Photo from ronfinley.com)


“Gardens allow parents and teachers to connect with students. It removes the educational barriers,” observed Kimbal Musk.

Musk’s school garden program, The Kitchen Community, aims to improve the health of students and communities by creating experiential learning and garden-based education opportunities in low-income schools. With a focus on nutrition and health, the Learning Gardens are inviting outdoor classrooms where teachers can teach and get inspired while students can engage in creative learning.

Kimbal Musk
(Photo from twitter.com/kimbal)


According to Waters, 
“The garden is an education of the senses. Children find very quickly how to connect to nature.”

What started with a 1-acre garden project at a middle school 20 years ago is now the Edible Schoolyard Project, a non-profit with an expanded mission of building and sharing edible education curriculum for kindergarten through high school. ESP supports edible education in programs across the country through an online network and resource center and offer professional development opportunities at our annual Edible Schoolyard Academy.



Her aspiring challenge to national and local school administrators: 

“We need to feed every kid in this country a sustainable free school lunch. We need to make it an academic subject, to add it into the academic curriculum.” 






We laud Alice’s message: Together, you feel empowered. That’s a theme of Slow Food Nations: we all have a part to play. There’s all of these different groups doing amazing work. We need to find how to put these amazing ideas together. We need to be strategic, really strategic.

Our own takeaway from Slow Food Nations 2017 . . . each of us can easily become part of the Slow Food movement right here in our own kitchens — by cooking meals using local seasonal ingredients to share with family and friends; by being intentional about where we spend our food dollars; by learning to appreciate real food. Find out more about our local chapter Slow Food Houston, then slow down and smell the home cooking!