Blue Watermelon Project
Inspired and led by the efforts of Chef Charleen Badman of FnB Restaurant, Blue Watermelon Project is a grassroots group of chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and community food advocates that believe in good food, equal and fair access to it, and that a systemic food systems change starts from the ground up. Learn more about us.
What We Do
We work at the food service level of schools and school districts to rethink relationships with food. We do this by working with three key groups of influencers to integrate taste education and interactive programming into curriculum and everyday life.
- Students: Working with students K-12 is at the core of what we do. We work with teachers and staff to integrate taste education and hands-on techniques into curriculum to engage all senses and encourage learning through doing.
- Parents: By equipping students with a more diverse array of food knowledge, they are more empowered to create at home. We make our student recipes and sources accessible, so parents and families can explore and expand on our efforts.
- Community: All funds raised go toward sustaining our non-profit efforts. Our annual series of events occurs each October during National Farm to School Month and doubles as a fundraiser for our cause and an opportunity to create awareness for everyone from parents to principals to politicians.
Why We Do It
For roughly 1 million schools in the country, the federal government provides around $3.23 for each lunch served to a student who qualifies for a free meal. After labor and other costs, schools have about one dollar to spend on food. This often results in the purchase of frozen, highly-processed, bottom of the barrel foods that kids are expected to eat and be nourished by. At the same time, studies show an average 17.5% increase in standardized math scores from students who consistently start their day with a healthy meal.
Our friends at the Edible Schoolyard have noted that without consistent nutrition education and an overall environment that supports healthy eating, many students are reluctant to accept healthier school food menus; it takes time for students’ palates to adapt to healthier options.
With kids spending ⅓ of their day at school, today’s students likely will eat more than 4,000 school meals by the time they graduate from high school. At the same time, children make up 45% (nearly half!) of all SNAP recipients in the home environment and many often rely on their school meal for their entire day’s sustenance (Healthy Schools Campaign, 2017).
Chefs can be allies when it comes to schools and students, having consistent training in flavor profiles, cost management, and creative sourcing. Each of us are invested in helping kids grow up to be healthy, have high academic goals and achievements, and a good relationship with food.
We see a future in which all people have a taste for a diverse array of food, one in which schools have served students fresh and healthy options, families have been given equitable and culturally-appropriate access, and all have been given the knowledge and freedom to be nourished, ready to learn and poised for academic and social success.
“If I’m reaching the children that are in kindergarten through eighth grade, then that effort translates into a high school student that wants to have a better lunch program. It’ll continue to an adult who eats better. It’ll continue to an adult that expects better from what is coming out of those cafeterias.”
- Chef Charleen Badman for the James Beard Foundation