The Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education and Regenerative Agriculture
Pursuing a bold vision at the intersection of climate, food, education, and health.

The Big Idea: School Supported Agriculture

What if we harnessed the educational and procurement power of school lunch?

Food and education are universal: Everyone eats. And every child goes to school, or should. With 4.9 billion lunches and 2.5 billion breakfasts prepared and served annually by K-12 schools to our nation’s children (let alone globally), the potential impact of school food production as a mechanism for a larger shift in our food systems is tremendous. All it takes is one reliable buyer committed to treating its producers as partners to unlock new local markets for regenerative organic food. The reliable demand of tens of thousands of schools distributed across the country would provide the bedrock of nationwide local regenerative supply chains on top of which restaurants, groceries, medical centers, and other institutions could then build. This would stimulate rural economies and reshape our agricultural landscape all at once, creating a complete and mutually beneficial system. Inspired by community supported agriculture, we call this SCHOOL SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE.

With school supported agriculture, schools become a true partner to their local farmers, ranchers, bakers, and other producers, committed to purchasing in advance and over the long term.  There’s no extractive middleman demanding deep discounts and adding costs. Producers are paid directly and fairly based on their cost of production and are therefore able to compensate their farmworkers properly and invest in stewarding their farmland. These shifts in procurement address the two largest impediments to regenerative organic producers: having long term and stable customers and receiving a price that will allow them to thrive over the long term.

When sourced this way, school lunch is also uniquely suited to nourish our next generation – both with nutritious food and with the values they need to live on and lead the planet: community, equity, and stewardship.

Our Collaboration with UC Davis

In January of 2020, Edible Schoolyard Project founder, Alice Waters, and Chancellor Gary S. May of UC Davis announced a partnership to bring the Alice Waters Institute to UC Davis.

Located at UC Davis’s Aggie Square campus in Sacramento, California, Alice Waters Institute will serve as a training center for K–12 educators and food service professionals as well as a research hub for leaders in the fields of regenerative organic agriculture, sustainable food systems, climate change, education, and public health. 

A Bold Vision

The institute will pursue an ambitious set of goals, including:

  • Supporting K-12 students through education, policy and community engagement, coupled with Alice Waters’s vision to provide a free, organic, delicious school lunch for every student in this country
  • Offering professional development opportunities for educators in garden and kitchen classrooms
  • Fostering curricular development to support food-based learning and environmental stewardship across disciplines and at all levels of study
  • Designing systems-level improvements through the interdisciplinary research of regenerative organic agriculture, carbon-reducing climate solutions, environmental education and public health scholarship.
  • Leading interactive, hands-on projects that support the sharing of best practices among K-12 educators, UC faculty and students, and farmers, growers, and ranchers who commit to sustainable practices for the land and their workers
  • Hosting conferences, summits, and other public gatherings that bring together UC faculty, students, researchers and other experts to address pressing challenges facing food systems and the planet