March is Women’s History month and here at MEANS we’re reflecting on the month by highlighting important women in the food recovery movement throughout history! There are many women who have made large strides in the fight against hunger and the push to eat and shop sustainably that have unfortunately not been commended for their efforts. 

Among these influential women is Alice Waters, an American chef and activist born in Chatham, New Jersey. Best known for being a “leading proponent of the ‘slow food’ movement,” Waters was a dedicated activist of farm-to-table cooking and developing relationships with local farmers and grocers (Britannica). In the 1970s, she and a friend decided to chase this passion by opening a restaurant named Chez Panisse in California. The restaurant was wholly dedicated to serving organic, all-natural meals using only locally-grown, seasonal ingredients with little to no food waste. After establishing her restaurant and watching it grow, Waters decided to focus her efforts on other facets of food activism.

She first participated in the Garden Project, which was a program based out of San Francisco with the goal of providing fresh produce to the San Francisco county jail, as well as providing jobs for its former inmates. Many projects and programs later, Waters decided to start a program of her own in 1995, and called it the Edible Schoolyard. The program began by Waters planting a vegetable garden in the field of the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkley, CA. A cooking classroom was also added to the building and “by 2009 the Edible Schoolyard was a thriving educational tool” (Britannica). However, Waters wanted to take it one step further. After the Edible Schoolyard began to expand into other major cities such as New Orleans and Los Angeles, she began to persuade the government to provide more funding to school lunches, so as to provide more nutritious meals for the students. Although many people argued that nutritional meals were too expensive, especially for an already-underfunded school system, Waters’ motto was always, “if we do it right, the money will come” (Britannica)

In 2015, Waters was awarded the National Humanities Medal by former President Barack Obama, and also earned a lifetime achievement award, given by the James Beard foundation. Waters is currently continuing to lobby for sustainable school lunches in the California region in partnership with local farmers, in an effort to benefit both students and agriculture (OpenTable).

We are so amazed by everything Alice Waters has accomplished and all her efforts to move the food sustainability effort forward. Women’s History Month is so important to us here at MEANS and we are honored to highlight such an influential woman!

By: Alexa Berry



Alice Waters

Most Inspiring Female Food Chefs in History