Charlie Cart Project

What if our schools taught kids about food from garden to plate? Charlie Cart Project designs an innovative approach to food education in public schools

For the past 15 years, educator Carolyn Federman has helped build garden programs with the Edible Schoolyard Project, and teaching kids to cook. While school gardens have gone mainstream, cooking in public schools is often still too difficult and expensive. After years of scrambling together hotplates and plastic bins, Carolyn wanted to find a better way. In collaboration with Brian Dougherty at Celery Design and expert advisers, such as Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, the team founded The Charlie Cart Project to bring a kitchen to every classroom.

Celery Design has developed a multipurpose compact mobile kitchen that is affordable and easy to use, by design. According to Carolyn, “The Charlie Cart Project packages everything needed for high-quality cooking and nutrition programs in a simple-to-use, streamlined kit for educators.” It can be used as an extension to school gardens or on its own, and each cart is equipped with free tools sponsored by OXO and William and Sonoma.

The Charlie Cart Project partners closely with public schools and education professionals to develop lesson plans aligned with Common Core standards. Several school districts from Pittsburgh, PA to Ventura and Richmond, CA have already jumped on board and are rolling out the first Charlie Carts in classrooms in 2015. Accompanied by video trainings and an interactive web forum, participants can share lessons, tips, and support to bring hands-on learning in schools that are new to food education.

The educational benefits are clear. Not only will it support and simplify nutrition education, it engages all the senses to reinforce academic concepts and promote collaboration across subjects like science and math. It also builds essential values of patience, communication, and generosity, as well as influence attitudes about food to foster lifelong healthy habits.

The Charlie Cart Project also addresses a much larger problem. As Michael Pollen states, we need “to educate the next generation about the connections between food, health and the environment if we hope to solve the major challenges of our time. The Charlie Cart is the right idea at the right time to introduce this kind of education into schools everywhere.”

The Charlie Cart Project’s simple idea has the potential to create extraordinary and wide-scale impact. By giving a whole generation of kids direct experience with healthy food, it can spur a slow tidal wave of change in our nation’s interconnected systems of food, health, and education. Let us hope local public school officials will do their part and invite Charlie Cart to roll out across classrooms in America.