It's a sad sign of the times people when a long-time culinary instructor from the Berkeley Unified School District's Gardening and Cooking Program has to start hawking real estate to earn enough to pay her own mortgage because of budget cuts in the classroom.
But that's the status quo for Carrie Fehr, a 14-year veteran of the BUSD's program, once widely touted as a model for the nation. Fehr, a former restaurateur who ran her own joint in the French Alps, has been reassigned to new schools in Berkeley due to the financial crisis, which we reported on here back in May. Gone is her full-time gig at Washington and Rosa Parks elementary schools, she's now providing part-time instruction at Longfellow Middle School and Jefferson, an elementary school that has not previously offered cooking curriculum. She's operating out of a space barely big enough to swing a cat, let alone teach young children how to use a knife. And yet she still lights up when she talks about explaining to students the significance of the "The Three Sisters" -- that's corn, beans, and squash -- and their rich cultural and culinary history.
Many would find the current work conditions untenable. But Fehr's blessed with a sunny disposition. Where others see obstacles she sees possibilities. And, of course, there are all those eager students who are hungry for nourishing stories and delicious samples. On Tuesday night, the North Shattuck Association and the BUSD will co-host a Taste of North Berkeley to benefit the struggling program. Trust me, there are worse ways to spend 30 bucks. Plus there's stuff to snack on: curry butternut squash & pear soup from SOOP, a charcuterie plate courtesy of The Local Butcher Shop, shrimp dumplings thanks to Kirala 2, frangipane galette from Gregoire, gelato from Lush, apple cider and (it's Berkeley, folks) a free class pass from Yogakula, and more.
Fehr, who helped raise $25,000 for the program through a Dine Out event last spring, filled BAB in on the current state of play at Berkeley schools.