Potentially lost in the tsunami of stories of all things Chez Panisse this week  — see yesterday’s Berkeleyside Wire and this post today for a fraction of the coverage circulating in anticipation of the 40th anniversary celebrations that start in earnest tonight — is the fact that the weekend long festivities are, at their heart, a series of fundraisers for the newly launched Edible Schoolyard Project, a national hub designed to broaden the reach of The Edible Schoolyard founded by Alice Waters.

What kind of money are we talking about?  “We have a projected revenue goal of $500,000 which we hope to surpass,” said David Prior, communications director for Chez Panisse. “Like any non-profit we are ever hopeful that some unlikely champions will emerge from the weekend’s events.”

The funds will be used to maintain the flagship direct service program at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley and support a shift in focus to work on a national platform of advocacy, while building and sharing food curriculum with educators in all communities, according to Prior.

A decent chunk of those funds will come from high-ticket, sold-out dinners (check please @ $500-$2,000), such as a pig roast at Michael Pollan‘s house, out of reach for most mere mortals. But there are more accessible, affordable ways for others to participate.

Pop-up chef and Chez alum Samin Nosrat. Photo: Bart Nagel

Chez Panisse alum Samin Nosrat knows a thing or two about raising money for worthy causes: she was the mastermind behind both the Bakesale for Haiti, which brought in $22,000, and the Bakesale for Japan, which raised a whopping $140,000. So Nosrat was put in charge of Eating for Education, a campaign to include restaurants and food businesses from around the country, many of them from the Chez inner circle, who have agreed to donate a percentage of profits to a school garden program of their choice on Saturday.

Participating restaurants in town include Café Rouge, Revival, Tacubaya, Zut!, Bar Cesar, Summer Kitchen & Bake Shop, Ici, and, of course, Chez Panisse.

Some restaurateurs have designated specific programs or schools to help, while others will simply donate to the general fund. The take from Tacubaya, for instance, will go to Malcolm X Elementary (where the owners’ children went to school). Café Rouge already has a relationship with Dig Deep Farms in Oakland, where their funds will go.

Summer Kitchen & Bake Shop is using the anniversary to kick off its new Farm Shop Box, available in store on Saturdays. The $65 boxes include fresh produce from local farmers, along with artisan products from the store. In the mix this week: tomatoes, peaches and basil from J and K Smith Farm in  Brentwood, along with Soul Food Farm eggs and chicken soup, and Summer Kitchen pizza and tart dough. The store will host a brunch on Saturday featuring farm box ingredients.

A percentage of profits from the brunch and the farm boxes will benefit local school garden programs. “We are starting with our Farm Shop Boxes as a fundraiser and will continue them in order to fund a grants program,” said Reis, Summer Kitchen co-owner and pastry chef, as well as a Chez alum. “The cooking and gardening programs in Berkeley are close to my heart,” added Reis, who worked at Washington Elementary for five years teaching cooking to kids. The idea behind the grants program is that school gardens could apply, for instance, if they needed money for, say a new wheelbarrow.

As Nosrat noted, profit margins are slim in the restaurant business, but she hopes that the day will raise awareness and a little cash for local school gardens — and perhaps lead to long-term relationships between restaurant chefs and school cooking and garden programs.

So if shelling out some small change for tacos at Tacubaya or ice cream at Ici is more your style (and matches your pocketbook), know that on Saturday your money will benefit kids’ edible education too.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

Berkeley Bites: Samin Nosrat [06/25.10]
Berkeley merchants reach out to raise funds for Japan [03.16.11]
Berkeley Bites: Paul Arenstam and Charlene Reis, Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop [08.06.10]