March 19th, 2002
You Are What You Eat: Lessons from Alice Waters
Procedures for Teachers

NOTE: This lesson plan culminates in the students’ proposal for healthier foods in the school cafeteria. Check with your principal and kitchen/cafeteria staff in advance to see if they are willing to participate in this project. If they are unable to participate or if you teach in a school where the principal and kitchen staff may have little say in the food served, consider having students prepare an informational presentation to their parents instead.

Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows 95 or higher with at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer running System 8.1 or above with at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Required Software: Real Player. Download the free Real Player at
  • Optional Software: Presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio.

    Bookmarked sites:
    Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links to distribute to students. Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class.

  • Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café
    The official Web site for Alice Waters’ restaurant in Berkeley, California. It includes a biography of Alice Waters that will be part of a Guided Reading mini-lesson.

  • The Edible Schoolyard
    Alice Waters is involved in the development of an edible garden at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. This project involves the children directly in planting, gardening, harvesting, cooking, and eating, illuminating the vital relationship of food to their lives while teaching them respect for the planet. It is a significant part of the school’s curriculum that has helped resuscitate its lunch program.

  • Organic Trade Association
    This is the Organic Trade Association’s list of reasons to buy and eat organic food. Students will use this site to help them write their proposals calling for healthier foods in the school cafeteria and at home.

  • The Organic Trade Association’s O’Mama Report
    This is a list of frequently asked questions and answers about organic food. Students will use this site to help them write proposals calling for healthier foods in the school cafeteria and at home.

  • Alice Waters’ Letter to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore
    Alice Waters’ letter to the Clinton White House about the need for better nutrition among American schoolchildren. Students will read this as an example of how to appeal to others about good eating habits.

    These video clips in Real Player format are used in the culminating activity. The links below offer both low and high bandwidth options.

  • Discussion about apples in school lunches ( lo bandwith | high bandwith)
  • Peter Sellars’ discussion about tomatoes (
    lo bandwith |
    high bandwith )

    Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Commercial/mass produced tomatoes and organically grown tomatoes – one tomato of each kind for every six students in the classroom.
  • Ideally, a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom.

    Students will need the following supplies:

  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils

    Introductory Activity:

    1. Before viewing the one-hour video, ask the class to reflect on the following statement. “You are what you eat.”

  • How many of you have heard this statement before?
  • What does it mean?
  • How does this apply to your own life?

    2. Write the following questions on separate sheets of chart paper. Tell students to think about these questions while they are watching the video.

  • Who is Alice Waters?
  • What is she credited for in the food industry? What is organic food?
  • What is her philosophy about food?
  • What does she think about the statement, “You are what you eat?”

    3. Show the video to the class.

    4. After watching the video, split the class up into four groups. Each group will brainstorm about one of the questions posed in step 2. After 10 minutes, the entire class should come together to share their answers.

    5. Ask the students how watching the video has changed their ideas about eating and nutrition.

    6. Now that you have the students thinking about their own eating habits, they will start interviewing each other (in pairs) about what they ate for the day so far. Hand out copies of the “What I Ate Today” organizer to each student. The interviewer should take notes so that the interviewee can focus on remembering what he or she ate so far that day. Obviously, students won’t be able to finish filling out the chart for the entire day. Assign the rest of the chart for homework.

    Note: Let students know that they should ignore the third column in the worksheet for now. They will return to it the following day.

    Learning Activities:

    1. In a whole class discussion, review some of the main ideas that Alice Waters talked about in the AMERICAN MASTERS episode.

  • How does she feel about the phrase “You are what you eat?”
  • Why did she decide to start The Edible Schoolyard project?

    2. Now students consider their own eating habits. What would Alice Waters say about the class’s choices in foods?

  • What are some of the “healthy” food items or dishes on the list?
  • How would Alice Waters improve on some of those healthy dishes?
  • What are some of the “unhealthy” food choices? (Encourage students to answer this question honestly.)
  • Why are they unhealthy?
  • What are substitutes for some of the unhealthy choices?

    3. In groups of two or three, the students should go through their findings from their homework and fill in the last column, which has not been labeled. This column will be the “Substitutes” or “Alternative Food Ideas” column.

    4. After suggesting a few alternatives, students should recognize that even “healthy” dishes can be improved upon by using organically grown foods. In the AMERICAN MASTERS video, actor and director Peter Sellars compared a commercial, mass-produced tomato to an organically grown one. In this part of the activity, you will have students do the same:

  • Divide the class into groups of six.
  • Give each group one organically grown tomato and one commercial tomato.
  • On their own sheets of paper, students will describe the differences between the two tomatoes.

    Remind them to use full sentences to describe smell, color, size, and texture.

  • After 20 minutes or so, slice each tomato into six pieces and ask students to do a taste test.

    Students should then describe the tastes in writing.

  • After they have shared some of their descriptions, show the continuation of Peter Sellars’ discussion about the tomato in this video clip:
    low bandwith or high bandwith.

    5. Finally, arrange for a post-lunch trip to the school cafeteria to see what the class can learn about the school population’s eating habits. Each student should have a clipboard and paper and pencil handy so they can jot down notes.

  • What types of garbage did they find in the garbage can?
  • What does the garbage from the cafeteria indicate about elementary school students’ eating habits?
  • It would be best to get help from the kitchen or maintenance staff to rummage through the trash. Meanwhile, students would observe and take notes on the types of garbage that they see.

    6. Return to the classroom and list some of the foods that students found in the garbage on a large sheet of paper. Based on their previous discussions, what alternatives can they suggest?

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    1. Ultimately, the students are working on a way to make lifelong changes to their eating habits. The culminating activity consists of the preparation of a multi-part proposal to the principal and the kitchen staff of the school about changing the types of foods that are prepared for lunch.

    There will be different portions of the presentation. They include:

  • INTRODUCTION – What is the purpose of the presentation, and what do we hope to accomplish?
  • WHAT WE FOUND – What are kids eating for lunch now?
  • ALICE WATERS – Who is Alice Waters, and what have we learned from her?
  • ORGANIC FOOD – What is organic food? (Students will include a description of their own experiment.)
  • SUGGESTIONS – Our suggestions to the school.

    Each group will be responsible for a different set of readings and/or media to explore. Distribute copies of the following organizers to each group so that they have all of the questions and task requirements available:

  • Organizer for Students Working on the “Introduction” section.
  • Organizer for Students Working on the “What We Found” section.
  • Organizer for Students Working on the “Alice Waters” section.
  • Organizer for Students Working on the “Organic Food” section.
  • Organizer for Students Working on the “Suggestions” section.
    Group Things they need to show in their presentation. Readings that they need to do.
  • What is the purpose of the presentation?
  • What are we suggesting to the school?
  • A general description of all of the activities we went through.
  • A brief introduction of all the different groups that will be presenting.
  • The Web site for the Edible Schoolyard at

    Guided Reading Questions to answer:

  • What is the mission or goal of the Edible Schoolyard?
  • Why is it important to recycle?
  • What are some of the produce items grown there?
  • What we found?
  • Description of the trip to the cafeteria and our personal surveys.
  • Explanation of the types of food that students are eating now.
  • View
    low bandwith | high bandwith

    Questions to answer:

  • Why does he use the apple to illustrate his point?
  • What is the main point of the video clip?
  • How does that reflect the message the class will send to the principal?
  • Alice Waters
  • Who is Alice Waters?
  • What is she famous for?
  • What is her philosophy about food?
  • How has Alice Waters inspired us and our work on this project?
  • A biography of Alice Waters at

    Guided Reading Questions to answer:

  • What is Alice’s philosophy about food?
  • How is she important to her community?
  • She has been honored by many organizations. What is so special about her food?
  • Organic Food
  • What is organic food?

  • Why is it better to eat organic food?
  • Describe the tomato and strawberry experiment.
  • Q&A about organic foods at
  • Organic Trade Association’s list of reasons to buy organic foods at

    Guided Reading Questions to answer:

  • What is organic?
  • Why is it so popular these days?
  • How does the organic farm community help the environment?
  • Suggestions
  • Present all of the suggestions that the class came up with.

  • Why is it better to eat healthy?
  • Is it possible to eat healthy foods and enjoy it?
  • Alice Waters’ Letter to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at
  • Organic Trade Association’s list of reasons to buy organic foods at

    Guided Reading Questions to answer:

  • What is Alice’s idea of “feeding ourselves responsibly?”
  • Why is she writing to the White House?
  • What is her message?
  • 2. As students work on this portion of the project in class, circulate among the different groups to facilitate their understanding of the material. The following is a recommendation regarding the amount of guidance you should offer each group. The recommendation is based on the degree of difficulty of each group’s material.

    • Suggestions group
    • Introduction group
    • Organic Food group
    • Alice Waters group
    • What We Found group

    Note: Encourage students to ask their peers for help, as well.

    3. In many public schools, food service is a function of a central district office, which means that the principal and kitchen staff may have little say in the choice of food. If this is the case, check with the principal first to see if he or she is willing to participate in the project. If the principal agrees to participate, he can take the opportunity to explain to the students why he can or cannot make those decisions. This way, it will validate and acknowledge the work that the students have done on the project. Regardless of the end result, encourage the principal and/or the kitchen staff to respond to the presentation.

    4. If the principal and kitchen staff are unable to participate, have students prepare an informational presentation to their parents to highlight the importance of nutrition and eating healthy at home.


  • Nutrition/Health/Mathematics: Have students prepare one of Alice Waters’ recipes for the class. Students will be required to determine amounts, costs, and how to serve the food. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse have published 10 cookbooks available at bookstores.
  • Science: Ask students to visit the Edible Schoolyard site at to find out what types of fruit, herbs, and vegetables are grown there. Find a small plot of land near the school building. Work with students to plan and create an herb garden.
  • Science: Composting is a critical element of the organic farm. What is it? Have students create a compost pile or bin from the school cafeteria’s biodegradable waste materials. Visit the WHAT’S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT? Web site to learn about a classroom project based on composting:

    Community Connection:

  • Students can extend this activity beyond the school. Organize a special assembly highlighting the importance of nutrition and healthy eating habits in which students can present what they have learned.

    Inside This Lesson


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