Berkeley’s School Garden Pioneers

Left to right: Beebo Turman, Joy Moore and Rivka Mason. (Photo by/ Tony Wilkinson)

By Tony Wilkinson Parents and neighbors at Malcolm X school in Berkeley met Monday to learn about the history of the Berkeley schools’ garden and nutrition program, listening to stories told by three of members of a coalition that completely changed what Berkeley school children eat and what they learn about food. Beebo Turman, Joy Moore and Rivka Mason shared their personal experiences as part of an effort that not only changed Berkeley schools but also had a major impact how nutrition is taught nationwide. Turman and Moore explained that they become interested school food through their children.  Turman’s daughter refused to eat the meals produced by the school, saying they were “awful.” Moore said she learned through trial and error which food in the schools contained dyes and additives that were causing her daughter to have severe allergic reaction Mason was working in the schools to set a gardening program to expand the school curriculum. In 1999,these three women and others came together to help develop a healthy food policy for the school district.  They gradually developed the garden and nutrition programs in 12 of Berkeley’s 16 schools. Today, Mason is the garden teacher at Malcolm X elementary school, and Moore works with high school students in the garden and nutrition program at Berkeley’s alternative high school, the B-Tech Academy. Each of these three women is passionately devoted to teaching children about where food comes from, the enormous health advantages of eating healthy food and how to make a garden grow. Pointing to the program’s success Mason recounted how a kindergartener told her, “When we grow our food, it tastes better.”
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