Surgeon General Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin surrounded by King Middle School students in the school’s kitchen. Photos: Tracey Taylor.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, came to Berkeley today where she delivered a lecture on her vision for a healthy, fit nation at UC Berkeley, as well as being greeted warmly by a group of enthusiastic school children.

After her morning visit to the campus, Dr Benjamin dropped in to the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School at about 2:30pm. A welcoming party was there to greet her, which included, among others, King’s Principal Jason Lustig, BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, food reformer Joy Moore, and restaurateur Alice Waters who led Dr Benjamin on a tour of the garden. The Edible Schoolyard is a program of the Chez Panisse Foundation.

The Surgeon General is given a tour of the Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters.

King students were eager to show Dr Benjamin the fruits of their work. One boy, Billy Augustine, introduced the Surgeon General to a good-looking resident chicken.

After admiring the new growth of asparagus and sitting on hay bales chatting with students in the garden’s meeting area, Dr Benjamin was shown the school’s kitchens. An enthusiastic melée of students there insisted on having their photo taken with the Surgeon General, and several requested hugs.

Creating healthy schools and healthy child care settings are two of the key action points outlined in the Surgeon General’s plan for a healthy nation.

The Surgeon General chats to King students in the garden rotunda.
King student Billy Augustine introduced the Surgeon General to a good-looking resident chicken.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. I completely agree with “ladypants”, well said. Obviously Lemmy has never volunteered in the garden and/or kitchen program at King. King students really love being in the garden, and this terrific program has taught my son a lot about growing food and cooking. It is definitely something he will always remember. The thought that this program is somehow anti-immigrant or anti-farm workers is just nuts. Lemmy is simply repeating the same misguided argument that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly a while back. By the way, Lemmy, how PC is it to lump all white liberals in one bucket (I am one of them and my kid goes to King)? Maybe you should try to figure out what your real issues are rather than spreading your negativity.

  2. I am always amused that a positive story about BUSD brings out the cranks – like death and taxes, you can always count on it.

    The garden is a terrific asset and so is the food program, I am very grateful l we have such a thing in BUSD and I wish every school could have such a thing. Thanks to Berkeleyside for covering the story.

  3. Actually – my daughter’s mexican immigrant family worked in the mines in New Mexico. I’m sure they
    are looking upon her getting great grades at MLK, and enjoying the garden as a good thing; as do I. The
    bottom line is that the students LOVE the garden, and the kitchen curriculum as well. And yes – she
    does buy candy after school, but also buys pizza at Gioa’s and Chinese food at Lillys – Isn’t that what middleschool students do? P.S. She eats her veggies at home as well…

  4. Lemmy says: “Exactly how PC is it to take all the kids of the immigrant farmworkers, who send their children to US schools to free them from having to work on farms for a living — and then the progressive educators send those very same kids back to a model farm on the school campus?”

    Did you say this, or did you not, Lemmy?
    Where you get the idea that the Berkeley schools are full of the children of undocumented farm laborers, Lemmy?
    Why would undocumented farm laborers come and live in a community that doesn’t have any farms nearby, Lemmy?
    How do you think undocumented farm laborers commute from Berkeley to the fields, Lemmy?
    What fields do you think these undocumented farm laborers from Berkeley are working in, Lemmy?

    This isn’t Salinas/Gilroy/Watsonville, Lemmy.

    And I think referring to undocumented farm laborers as “Jose” might be racist, Lemmy.

  5. Mary, our family’s experience with the ES and curriculum are similar to yours. Our student loves it, talks about it a lot and now cooks many meals at home. The program has made him more informed about food, as well as the science, math and cultural aspects. There is nothing “precious” about it. Those kids who hang out at the quick market around the corner are mimicking what they see at home and on tv and at the movies. It is very hard to compete with the overwhelming messages of advertisers today to eat more fat, sugar and salt.

  6. I wanted to ask an obvious question, at least to myself, in the matter of this first photograph of Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin. Physiologically speaking e.g. comparing boy mass index to height et all, is this woman obese and thus overweight? Did she speak of her own diet at present and how well she feels or does not because of it. I understand the national statistics for obesity in America are staggering and I believe that we may very well lead the world in this matter of unhealthy diet and a near total lack of any meaningful exercise. I raise this delicate question as a matter of being an example of the power of walking one’s talk. There also may be overriding medical anomalies and conditions involved that need to be considered.

  7. Yes, it’s true some kids congregate and consume candy and bakery items after school. But I don’t think the kids are pretending to like vegetables. My own 7th grader (in the above picture) likes to go to the bakery once a week or so with friends but he also came home VERY excited about the visit with the Surgeon General and pulled out a little box of the quinoa they made today (with radishes, oranges, sunflower seeds, etc ) and proudly gobbled it up for snack. The garden and kitchen are a highlight of his experience at King and he does truly love the food he makes there. We often make some of the recipes at home and the ownership he shows over the process tells me he is gaining skills and knowledge that will stick with him forever.

  8. Sharkey:

    I never said that “most Berkeley students are children of immigrant farmworkers.”

    Nice job of misconstruing someone else’s words. Extra credit in “Critical Thinking 101!”

    However, it is well-known that the wealthy white liberals of Berkeley tend to hypocritically send their kids to private schools, so that minorities make up a proportion of BUSD far beyond their actual numbers in Berkeley census stats. That includes a substantial number of “undocumented residents” and their offspring.

    And they came to Berkeley to get away from the farms. But you knew that. Because you’re practicing your backhanded argumentation techniques, and this seemed like a good point on which to test out a misdirection fallacy.

  9. lemmy, where do you get the idea that most Berkeley students are children of immigrant farmworkers?

    The last time I checked, there aren’t that many farms in Berkeley.

  10. The Edible Schoolyard is nothing but a feelgood fantasy for the Alice Waters crew.

    For the real story, walk one block up the street to the corner of Rose Street and MLK Blvd., where after school and during lunch break there are hundreds of kids lined up at the bakery and the candy store spending all their cash on sugary sweets — and gobbling them desperately. Every single day.

    These kids pretend to like the vegetables, in order to get good grades, but in truth nothing can keep them away from the raw calories they need for energy.

    Also: Exactly how PC is it to take all the kids of the immigrant farmworkers, who send their children to US schools to free them from having to work on farms for a living — and then the progressive educators send those very same kids back to a model farm on the school campus? “Thought you were going to escape being a farm laborer, Jose? Dream on! Now get back to work!”