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Lunch with Alice Waters in Larchmont elementary school's garden

November 9, 2009 |  4:06 pm

Alice

When Alice Waters talks about improving school lunch, she doesn't just mean making the chicken nuggets more nutritious. She wants to see a table set, maybe with flowers. She wants children to have enough time to have conversations as they eat.

"There are lots of wonderful gardens that are happening in schools, and some progress is being made in the kitchens," Waters, chef-owner of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., said in the garden at Larchmont Charter School.

And eventually? She'd like to see high schools in which the students run the cafeterias and work in them alongside teachers and cooks. She'd like lunch to be served, for free, to everyone.

"That's a dream. We haven't gotten there yet," she said today at the Larchmont Charter School, an elementary school that served lunch to Waters, chef Mark Peel, City Council President Eric Garcetti and other guests to celebrate its affiliation with Waters' Edible Schoolyard program.

Larchmont Charter has two schools and one of them gets its lunch from the Farmers Kitchen, a project of the organization Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles. They served the same lunch to the adults who were visiting: cheese quesadillas with salsa, black beans, green salad, fruit salad and cookies.

As Waters and others spoke, children played nearby, many of them peering through a fence to see what was going on.

One of the speakers was Breanna Reed, a third grader who said she likes to garden because she likes to get her hands dirty and to taste and smell different foods. "I don't really like artichokes that much," she said, but she changed her mind when she tasted them from the school garden.

Second- and third-graders spend time in the garden every week with garden teacher Johnna Walker, a credentialed teacher who began at Larchmont as a parent volunteer. The relationship with the Edible Schoolyard will give Larchmont resources, advice and technical assistance, she said.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Alice Waters. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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