Berkeley school's gardening, cooking programs could be cut

March 14, 2013 5:55:17 PM PDT
A popular gardening and cooking program at an elementary school in Berkeley may be cut if a new source of funding isn't found. That's because a change in the qualifying guidelines means that a decade of federal grants will no longer be available.

If you look closely beyond the rows of flowering field peas you'll find two really cute things -- a lady bug searching for a resting place and this little guy.

"Sometimes we go to the table and we eat a little stuff," said Dante, a kindergartner at Le Conte Elementary School.

Le Conte is one of 14 schools in the Berkeley Unified School District with an edible schoolyard that provides a cooking and gardening program funded by a $1.9 million federal grant.

Chef Cathy and Chef Jan teach their students the value of knowing about the foods they eat.

But this movement to connect students with food education and healthy living may end this year.

"The problem is that we're losing funding from that grant," said Benjamin "Farmer Ben" Goff.

The problem is simple -- the requirements for the grant are changing. Funds that had been going to the program are being redirected by the state and other agencies; making Le Conte and the program Farmer Ben loves, ineligible for those government dollars. Cutting the program, he says, has wide ranging implications.

"I believe that you can learn about every area of curriculum in a garden or in a cooking classroom," Farmer Ben said.

In November the school board pledged to faculty, students, and parents that they would work with them to develop a plan to keep the program in place

"The goal is to incorporate the program into the districts' general curriculum," Farmer Ben said. Despite the loss of federal dollars.

A student named Kian is a veteran of the gardens and he doesn't want to see it go away. Neither do his classmates, who I promised I'd give an opportunity to send a message to our viewers, "Save our garden," they yelled.

And if they're going to save it, they need to act quickly. Federal funding pays for 29 positions in the gardening and cooking program. Without that money, those jobs will be cut.


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