BERKELEY -- Food lovers will have the opportunity to satisfy their taste buds for a food-related cause from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 12. That evening, more than 20 restaurants, cafes, shops and galleries on Shattuck Avenue north of University Avenue will open their doors for A Taste of North Berkeley, offering participants a sampling of the fare that made the gourmet ghetto famous.

To sweeten the experience, the businesses are donating their samples, meaning all proceeds from the event will benefit the Berkeley Unified School District's Cooking and Gardening Program, whose funding ends this school year.

For this festive community event, tasters get to stroll, sip and sample at participating businesses in any order they choose -- something savory from Flavor Mediterranean, Barney's, Gregoire or Saul's Deli, balanced by a sweet from Alegio Cocolat, Lush Gelato or Virginia Bakery, and a local artisan tidbit or beverage from ACCI Gallery, M. Lowe & Co. and many more. Just present a ticket at each location and prepare to enjoy something special.

The partnership between the North Shattuck Association and Berkeley's Cooking and Gardening Program seems a natural union, allowing local businesses to attract new customers and engage the community, while generating revenue to keep the school district's healthy food program alive after it lost all federal funds as of Oct. 1.


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"The North Shattuck Association Board heard about the issues about funding for the program and offered this event as a way to both fundraise and raise public awareness about the current situation," said Heather Hensley, North Shattuck Association executive director. "It felt natural and we are committed to doing other events for the Garden and Nutrition Program."

Currently every public school in Berkeley, from preschool to high school, has either a cooking program or an edible garden, and 10 schools have both. The 12-year-old program has been funded through the federal government, at the tune of $1.7 million per year. This is the final school year that will receive that funding.

Nutrition is just one of the program's benefits to students. "It's hands-on instruction in math, science and language; it also allows students to connect with their natural environment and the space to connect with each other; and it inspires creativity," said program supervisor Jezra Thompson.

Along the lines of "if they cook it, they will eat it," students learn to cook and eat healthy food. "Cooking lessons are often a child's first introduction to where their food comes from, why they eat what they eat, how they can improve wellness and the importance of that," Thompson said.

The school district views A Taste of North Berkeley as a way to connect with the community, to strengthen relationships with businesses, and to tell their story.

The fact that Berkeley is food-, family- and thinking-oriented gives Thompson confidence that solutions will be found to keep the Cooking and Gardening Program not only in place but reaching even more students.

Thompson wants the public to understand that the Cooking and Gardening Program is integral to shaping students' lifestyles, wellness and education, and that the schools, parents and community need to work together to keep the program in operation.

A Taste of North Berkeley is the first of many fundraisers for the program and an ideal vehicle to publicize it.

If you go
A Taste of North Berkeley is 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Tickets are $30, available online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/493199, or at ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave. and M. Lowe & Co., 1519 Shattuck Ave.
For details on assisting the Berkeley schools Cooking and Gardening Program contact Mia Villanueva at miavillanueva@berkeley.net.