Chez Panisse Foundation: Scaling Up A Delicious Revolution

By Gili Elkin, Hayagreeva Rao
2008 | Case No. HR33
In 1997, Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California, established The Edible Schoolyard program at a local middle school. In this program, children who had never been outside the city prepared their own food, using fresh ingredients they grew themselves or obtained from local growers. Waters believed that it was important for children to know where food came from, and to appreciate the value of nutritious, organic food. The following year, Waters founded the Chez Panisse Foundation to support this project, and others like it. She envisioned every school in the country having a lunch program that used only locally farmed, sustainable products. Following its initial success, a number of other institutions (schools and other organizations) were interested in establishing programs. Foundation board members had differing views on how best to scale up. Some wanted to ensure that programs initiated at different institutions followed strict standards to ensure quality. Others felt that institutions should have flexibility to develop programs appropriate to their resources and needs. The board also dealt with the fact that the Foundation’s mission addressed a multitude of issues, including basic nutrition, agriculture, sustainability, food preparation, and the problem of childhood obesity. Funders often preferred programs that were simple to categorize and easy to measure. Finally, the role of Waters, the visionary leader, needed to be determined in the scale-up plans.
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