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High End Chefs Support School Gardening, LAUSD's Program at Risk

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Photo by Manjith Kainickara via Flickr

Photo by Manjith Kainickara via Flickr
At a Zocalo food panel focused on defining Los Angeles' cuisine moderated by the Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold last year, there was no specific dish or item that could be defined as owned by this city. Tacos, burritos, sea food, sushi were all brought up (mind you, this was before Kogi BBQ and the mobile food truck culture ever existed, so much changes in less than a year, right?), but none felt like the quintessential L.A. food. But one consistent theme was apparent with Gold and others: a chef's long-term relationship with farmers and farmer's markets. In other words, what L.A. should be known for is not one specific food or dish, but the locally grown and sustainable food trend, the panel seemed to agree.

Now, two restaurant chef/owners in Culver City are assisting local schools by helping reinvigorate a garden at Farragut Elementary School. Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station and Akasha Richmond of Akasha are using food industry connections to make it happen, according to the LA Times in a feature about the rise in popularity of school gardens.

"Now we need a curriculum that's about ecology and about gastronomy so that we can make sure that children are making the right kinds of decisions for themselves, and for the planet. There's no way to address the issues of obesity unless you let children come into a relationship of food that's positive, restorative and desirable," explained Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and theh Edible Schoolyard (ESY) certification program. Waters is working with schools in the Hollywood area.

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But as popularity grows, the school budgets get slashed. LAUSD's program has been threatened, but Superintendent Ramon Cortines has agreed to match funds if the LA School Gardens program can raise $100,000. The program currently oversees 500 school gardens across the city. As part of a summer program, student workers are growing tomatoes for Ciudad and the Border Grill.

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