Slow Food convivia from Sicily to Veneto have developed more than 130 school vegetable plots across Italy in recent years, involving more than 5000 young students and their families and 1,500 teachers in growing produce and taste education programs.
Home to thirty-three of these gardens, Piedmont has been the region quickest to take up the project. In the city of San Mauro Torinese, just outside Turin, more than 600 children from four primary schools and one pre-school are tending seven gardens together with volunteers – primarily the students’ grandparents.
At the Slow Food Italy Congress in mid 2006, the school garden project was given the name Orto in Condotta and a goal was set to establish a national network of 100 gardens in which local Slow Food members work together with teachers, parents, grandparents, students and local authorities in a Learning Community.
The Italian school garden project is based on a three-year cycle, which deals with food and environmental education through activities in the classroom and the garden: sensorial education in the first year; environmental and food production education in the second; and food culture and regions in the final year.
Outside of Italy, Slow Food convivia are initiating school garden projects and other educational activities with students around the world. In Slow Food USA’s Garden-to-Table program – ranging from after-school cooking classes to farm tours and schoolyard gardens – convivia are supporting hands-on projects that create a direct connection between children and their food source, emphasizing the pleasures of taste and the table.
American chef, educator and Slow Food international vice-president Alice Waters has been a key promoter of school gardens since the mid 1990’s when she founded the Edible Schoolyard project in California. Waters was responsible for introducing a new food education approach to schools, based on practical activity in school gardens alongside sensory and culinary education using the resulting produce.