With schools closed due to the shelter-in-place order, the Edible Schoolyard Project, which operates out of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, has been donating its harvests to the Berkeley Food Network, or BFN.
The Edible Schoolyard Project was created in 1995 by Alice Waters, owner of Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. According to the project’s website, the program fosters edible education by offering community resources and training educators from all over the world.
“Our garden is now closed to the public,” said Angela McKee Brown, deputy executive director of the Edible Schoolyard Project. “Everything that is being harvested is being provided to the Berkeley Food Network and then distributed to those in Berkeley in need.”
According to its website, BFN is a community-centered model that provides services to Berkeley residents struggling with food insecurity. BFN operates a food sourcing and distribution hub, which offers various pantry and prepackaged food items, as well as food rescue programs.
While the spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, has affected BFN operations, the network is still working to provide food to the community. According to Sarah Palmer DeFrank, BFN’s director of programs, BFN has switched to making more prebagged and prepackaged items. Food prepared goes to local communities in need, including the homeless community and senior services.
“We aren’t letting any public into our building. We have volunteers that have been trained in social distancing and hygiene protocols,” Palmer DeFrank said. “So we are making lots of bags in house and right now, we’re working with two different unhoused groups.”
BFN gets a majority of its food from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, according to Palmer DeFrank.
The network also purchases a lot of its shelf-stable items at wholesale prices and has recently received donations from closing restaurants and coffee shops.
“We’re also getting really awesome donations from Edible Schoolyard’s gardens because all of the schools are closed,” Palmer DeFrank said. “Gardeners are getting together and doing harvests and sending it over on Tuesdays. It’s been really incredible to see how many people are thinking of us and how many are donating to us in this time.”
The Edible Schoolyard Project is continuing its mission of transforming children’s health and educational experiences through online classes.
According to McKee Brown, the online program, called Edible Education for the Home Classroom, is a series with the same intention that was in place when creating the gardening and kitchen classes at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
“We’ve always appreciated the Berkeley community,” McKee Brown said. “They’ve been a huge supporter to us, and we’re grateful for their ongoing care and support, and we’ll be here and be ready once schools start back again.”