A major new PVUSD instructional facility on the campus of Starlight Elementary School

Emeril’s Culinary Garden and Teaching Kitchen supports student and community health and wellness and expands PVUSD’s programming and long-term investment in Career Technical Education (CTE), today’s advanced approach to vocational education. This project lays the foundation for early career exposure (middle schools) and technical learning options (high schools) that combine academics with career training from industry professionals, internships, college credits, and programs linked to Cabrillo Community College, 4-year universities, and local employment.

More than 19,000 Students & Educators across all Pajaro Valley Schools

In its first full year of operation, the project will deepen and expand the learning experiences of 500 TK- 5 students at Starlight. Its impact then multiples across thousands of PVUSD students and teachers through new lessons and learning across 7 (expanding soon to all 16) PVUSD elementary school gardens, field trip groups from other PVUSD schools, mentorships with select middle school and high school teens, extended learning classes after school and in summer, county-wide teacher training opportunities, and significant connections to new college and career learning pathways and credits at Cabrillo College and the UC and Cal State university systems.

The Community

This project expands food resources, nutrition and wellness education. It also creates facilities-sharing opportunities for nonprofits including the Community Health Trust, Second Harvest Food Bank, and other community-serving groups whose programs and services advance community wellbeing through health, wellness, and nutrition education.

Local Employers

An educated workforce stabilizes and strengthens the whole community. This project introduces students to career learning pathways in agricultural management, data science, biotechnology, hospitality, and other career fields, preparing them for success in higher education and excellent jobs employers are waiting to fill here in the Pajaro Valley.

Construction Cost: $3,140,000

Set in motion 18 months ago by a $500,000 grant from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s private foundation, Starlight’s new 30-student kitchen and adjoining 8,000 sq. ft. garden inspired a $1.4 million community fundraising campaign to augment PVUSD funds and complete the $3.14 million project. Gifts from individual donors, businesses and foundations have brought the campaign to within $110,000 of the $1.4 million goal, as of September 2022.

  • The kitchen and garden become permanent additions to the Starlight campus. Recurring costs for supplies and staff will be part of Starlight’s annual operating budget, with building maintenance managed by the PVUSD.

  • Teaching capacity will be expanded with the addition of co-teaching educators from project partner Life Lab.

  • Current agricultural and nonprofit partners will continue donating produce, services, and other in-kind goods, with new partners already engaging with the district in support of the project.

  • The garden will be maintained during school breaks and summers by partner organizations and Starlight families.