Chef Alice Waters to receive National Humanities Medal

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Alice Waters, renowned chef and a founder of the Yale Sustainable Food Program, will be awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 10.

Waters, proprietor of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, pioneered a culinary approach that emphasizes the use of fresh seasonal ingredients produced sustainably and locally. She became involved in Yale’s food culture in 2001 when her daughter, Fanny Singer, was a freshman at the university.

Waters worked with then-Yale President Richard Levin, students, and faculty to establish an ambitious project to create a sustainable dining program, a college farm, university composting, and increased education around food and agriculture. 

Fourteen years later, this vision is a reality. The Yale Sustainable Food Program is a hub for the study of food systems at Yale. It manages two teaching farms, one on central campus and one on Yale’s West Campus, and runs diverse programs that support the study of food and agriculture. Waters continues to serve on the program’s board of advisers.

Waters, who has authored more than a dozen books, was named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1992. She was the first woman to win the honor.

The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.

A biography of Waters and the award citation is available on the National Endowment for the Humanities websiteThe ceremony will be live-streamed at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 at

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