Berkeley restaurant owner Alice Waters partners with UC Davis to improve food systems

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UC Davis and Alice Waters, the owner of Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, announced a partnership designed to bring together health, sustainability and education to foster a healthier future and fight climate change.

On Jan. 16, UC Davis’ Sacramento campus held a ceremony announcing plans for the Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education — a collaborative effort that will bring together experts from across multiple fields to work toward improving food systems, according to a press release from the UC Davis School of Education. The institute is set to be a part of Aggie Square, an “innovation hub” planned for UC Davis’ Sacramento campus. Construction is slated to begin mid-2021.

“As a public land grant university, we’re one of the world’s definitive institutions for connecting and enhancing human, animal and environmental health — all for the global good,” said Gary May, UC Davis’ chancellor,  during the announcement ceremony. “Now we’re taking another great step in our evolution, one that is interdisciplinary, which is indeed one of our great strengths at UC Davis, and what better way to make an impact than with food and equity?”

Waters, a UC Berkeley alumna and longtime food activist, has been involved with several food-based organizations and is the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, which got its start at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

With the vision of “edible education” in mind, the Edible Schoolyard Project gives students the chance to engage with local food systems. By both gardening and cooking, the students explore how culture and identity impact relationships with food, according to the Edible Schoolyard website. Waters’ vision for the institute is to foster similar food-based learning in local K-12 schools.

“You may or may not know that this all began for me when I went to the University of California at Berkeley,” Waters said during the announcement ceremony. “I arrived in 1964, and that was the moment of free speech. It was the moment of us trying to stop the war, and when it stopped we were empowered, really empowered and hopeful that we could change the world. And, I’ve never lost that optimism.”

Although construction is not set to begin on Aggie Square until mid-2021, Waters and UC Davis will be developing a more concrete curriculum and set of plans for the institute well before ground is broken on the building.

“We’re now in the planning stages of what the mission of the institute will be,” said Carlas McCauley, director of research and partnerships at UC Davis’ School of Education. “Although the physical buildings will not be in place, a lot of work is beginning right now, starting with the planning – taking that vision and putting it on paper.”

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.