From Mesamérica to the Edible Schoolyard

Hannah Piercey
Hannah Piercey is community manager for the Edible Schoolyard Project.

Each year, Mesamérica draws chefs, farmers, and food producers from around the world to Mexico City. This year’s program featured cooking demonstrations, discussions, showcases, and talks around the question: what do we eat in large cities, how, and why?

Enrique Olvera, one of the world’s most renowned chefs, began Mesamérica to connect Mexico’s growing food community with inspiration from outside the country. The gathering’s audience blends designers, artists, and academics with a large contingent of local culinary students. The result is three days highlighting new ideas and techniques while also celebrating the country’s rich culinary traditions and culture.

Chef Olvera’s commitment to building a larger conversation around food extends beyond Mesamérica. “How can I have a great restaurant if I don't have great products and to have access to those we have to make sure the small farmer can survive, have enough to eat and to plant these crops,” he explained in a recent interview. “We cannot do this isolated from all these issues. In order for Pujol to be successful, we need to have a successful community.”

To this end, Olvera recently partnered with the government of Mexico City and his fellow chefs from the Mexican Collective Kitchen to develop meals, recipes, and curricula for the SaludArte program.

SaludArte provides more than 20,000 public school students in the city’s most marginalized communities with free daily meals, art classes, physical activities, and nutrition education.

Mara Robles, Secretary of Education for the federal district, highlighted the program’s benefits in a presentation on the second day of Mesamérica. During her time on stage, Dr. Robles emphasized the significance of investing in the city’s children and laying the groundwork of “an education for life.”









She outlined the same vision a day earlier over lunch with Alice Waters, chef, activist, and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project. As the meal proceeded, the two made plans for a visit to the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley, as well as an extension of the SaludArte project.

Only two weeks later, a delegation including Chef Olvera and Dr. Alfredo Rodríguez Banda representing the federal district government, arrived in California from Mexico City.

For the next three days, the group worked closely with the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley’s staff to develop a working knowledge of the program’s model for edible education. They participated in kitchen and garden classes and met with local school administrators to discuss the program’s beginnings.

On their final afternoon, the delegation and staff gathered in the Edible Schoolyard kitchen. Chef Teacher Esther Cook shared a series of sixth-grade lessons focused on the Silk Road before the group prepared a lunch of vegetable curry.

The conversation around the table focused on SaludArte and the growth of edible education across Mexico City. We look forward to continuing these conversations and highlighting programs across the district as the SaludArte and other initiatives continue to grow.