Support Grows to Save School Garden and Cooking Programs

By Tony Wilkinson

Karen McCreary of the African Sustainable Urban Market on Alcatraz. Photo by Tony Wilkinson.

A community meeting was held in the library of Malcolm X Elementary School this week to mobilize support and organize fundraising to save garden and cooking programs in Berkeley schools. Attending the Monday evening meeting were parents, grandparents, teachers and neighbors from Malcolm X, Washington, Rosa Parks Elementary schools, Spiral Gardens, South Berkeley Neighbors, and Youth Spirit Artworks. They had come together to learn the current status of funding for the garden and cooking programs and to lay out a plan to secure temporary bridge funding for next year. The three schools are no longer eligible for the existing funding, which is based on a 50 percent minimum food stamp eligible school population under Title 1 federal guidelines. The garden and cooking program at Malcolm X has provided children hands-on experience in planting, cultivating and harvesting food from the school’s garden. In the classroom they learn about nutrition and food preparation. There is widespread support in the community for these programs, and the aim of the meeting was to begin to mobilize the support to ensure money is found to maintain these programs for next year. “For me programs about growing and preparing healthy foods are so important to our neighborhood.  For people with limited food budgets access to varieties of nutritious food is essential,” said Karen McCreary of the African Sustainable Urban Market on Alcatraz. “When you learn as a child that you can grow your own food, you are not be afraid to plant your own garden or get your hands dirty, even in a  balcony planter or pot,” she said. “When you grow your own food, when you are not afraid to plant – it gives you courage and strength to know that you can take care of yourself. “ The Berkeley School Board has been asked to provide information on current program funding and potential grant opportunities for long-term support. Information on the superintendent’s proposals to fund the programs for the next year will be discussed at the April 11 School Board Meeting. The Berkeley Public Education Foundation has agreed to serve as the fiscal sponsor for fundraising efforts for the three schools. This will provide a place for individuals and businesses to make tax-deductible donations to a collaborative fund to be shared equally among the three schools. Supporters are urged to speak on behalf of the programs at upcoming school board meetings, which will take place Wednesdays, April 11 and 25,  at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
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