Known as the outspoken Berkeley, California chef and founder of restaurant Chez Pannise, Alice Waters appeared on The Wall Street Journal's Big Interview last week to talk food, politics and feeding the world as the 40th anniversary of her landmark restaurant nears.
WSJ's Alan Murray asked Ms. Waters about the connection between food and children—a topic she takes quite seriously with her Edible Schoolyard program. "It's impossible for anyone in this country not to see the connection between children and what we grow," said Waters, suggesting that a free lunch program in all schools is a stimulus plan in its own right: Money given to schools for healthy lunches supports farmers actively engaged in caring for the land, lessens the financial burden on parents and ultimately has the possibility of affecting virtually every child in the country, changing their eating habits and relationship with food for the rest of their lives.
Asked about our government's ability to be able to afford to subsidize this idea, Waters says that we are already paying for it in the health care and challenges we face by not investing on the front end with better food for our children, which, she suggests would ultimately lead to more opportunities, healthier communities and a stronger nation instead of our current situation where for the first time, a generation may die sooner than their parents, largely because of diet-related illnesses.
"Real elitism is having 6 or 8 corporations running our food system," said Waters when Murray suggested that perhaps her idealistic vision might work in Berkeley, but not the rest of the world. "We're not just eating food, we're eating a set of values," said Waters about what she calls a "delicious revolution" that she thinks can change the way we view food as well as feed everyone. The government is subsidizing many corporate giants whose only interest is in profit, says Waters, which leads to unhappiness and a disconnect to the traditional ways that we've gathered together and taken care of each other. These values, along with real food, have been left behind to make money, and, according to Waters, "we can be very ingenious with solutions if we encourage everybody to participate in that process."
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Photo: David Sifry