Today’s post is written by Steve Reiher, VP of Marketing for Operation Kids
We have witnessed a lot of school reform and educational innovation in New Orleans since launching our “Operation Kids: Rebuilding Dreams” campaign in early 2007. Perhaps the most inspiring and impactful of all is the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, located at the Sam Green and Arthur Ashe charter schools. The Edible Schoolyard provides students with engaging, hands-on learning experiences through weekly garden and kitchen classes, and school-based seasonal events. Students in grades K-8 participate in gardening and cooking classes that reinforce classroom coursework in core subjects, while also learning teamwork, responsibility, and respect for the natural world.
The Edible Schoolyard concept was first created and established in Berkeley, California by renowned chef Alice Waters. The concept is a perfect fit for New Orleans, where food plays such a significant role in the city culture.
Seeing the many benefits such a program can make in the lives of children, Operation Kids identified the Edible Schoolyard as one of its first approved programs in New Orleans. The program was just starting in early 2007; with well-developed plans and curriculum but a garden area consisting of not much more than straight dirt. My, how the garden has grown! Today it is a beautiful landscaped area growing multiple varieties of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
This past week, I was thrilled to be present when the Harrah’s Foundation presented a check in the amount of $257,000 to the Schoolyard. Harrah’s gift will be used to finish irrigation and drainage improvements at Green School, start landscaping and continue program development at Arthur Ashe School, and fund Schoolyard teacher and staff salaries at both schools for the next two years.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose Brees Dream Foundation is Operation Kids charitable partner for the New Orleans campaign hosted the event. Other participants included John Payne, Central Division President for Harrah’s Entertainment; renowned New Orleans chef John Besh; and Dr. Tony Recasner, founder of Green Charter School. The event was well-attended and everyone enjoyed the fresh appetizers prepared from fruits and vegetables grown in the school’s garden.
The Harrah’s gift makes four organizations that have donated $100,000 or more to Operation Kids’ efforts in New Orleans: the National Automobile Dealers Association, Harrah’s, XanGo LLC, and the Allstate Foundation. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s generosity, and promise that their gifts are being put to the optimal use possible.
By the way, the other reason I was in New Orleans was to assess several park sites for future child-safe playgrounds. That part of the trip was successful, too, as we identified several great locations. I’ll fill you in on that project in a future blog posting.