What is the typical school lunch? Frozen meatloaf, bland spaghetti, greasy fries, too often school lunch programs are unhealthy, lackluster affairs.
At St. James School, we serve fresh healthy meals each and every school day, thanks to our growing connection with Vetri Community Partnership.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Vetri Community Partnership has a mission to create healthy, family-friendly meals through its school lunch programs. Vetri has four main programs: Eatiquette, Vetri Cooking Lab, and the newest program Mobile Teaching Kitchen. Focused on the Philadelphia region, Vetri has programming in fifty area schools.
At St. James we have Eatiquette, a Vetri Community Partnership school lunch program that helps bring freshly prepared, nutritious lunches to select Philadelphia schools. Popular lunch items are romaine salad with roasted red pepper dressing, buttermilk baked chicken, and balsamic strawberries with fresh mint.
As part of the Eatiquette program, instead of lunch trays and cafeteria lines our lunches are served family-style at the table to encourage communication and foster connections between staff and students. Jokes and storytelling flow over the entrée and fruit courses. Family style dining also helps to reduce behavior problems at participating schools, according to Danielle Zimmerman, communications coordinator, Vetri Community Partnership. “When you sit down with someone at lunch you have to let stuff go so you can cooperate,” said Zimmerman.
Under Eatiquette, students also serve as table captains, setting the tables and bringing platters of food to their classmates during lunch. This well-respected role teaches responsibility and service.
Eatiquette programs are in six area schools. St. James School also features a Vetri Cooking Lab program. These cooking labs have a full curriculum to teach middle school students cooking techniques and pair it to what the kids are learning in science class or math class. Added Zimmerman, “We are taking those concepts and applying them to cooking. Kids will often say during cooking lab, I learned about this in science.” By experimenting in the kitchen, St. James students learn how applicable scientific and math principles are to real life.
Vetri Community Partners launched the cooking labs to combat a lack of nutrition education and general cooking education among school children. They developed the afterschool cooking program to supplement what the kids were learning in the lunchroom. The latest program, Mobile Cooking Kitchen, focuses on the students’ families’ exposure to healthy meals. On November 15th, Vetri Community Partner introduced its Mobile Cooking Kitchen food truck to St. James School. With help from students and parents, Vetri chefs prepared a warm salad of sautéed cabbage and wilted Swiss chard with butternut squash ribbons. The cooking staff also gave cooking techniques and nutrition information. Project Share, headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, added to this healthful event by providing boxes of free vegetables to replicate the recipe as well as setting up an affordable produce stand for the community.
Learning is impossible when you are hungry. St. James School’s close attention to the lunch program recognizes that need. The Eatiquette programs neatly fits into St. James’ focus on the whole child. By emulating a family table setting the Eatiquette also allows our students to know that they deserve high quality food prepared with love.
Our special lunch program exemplifies our commitment to educating our students to make healthier choices at home and for the rest of their lives. “St. James really believes in our mission and they go above and beyond with formal table setting, tablecloths, and flowers on the table. You make a nice experience for the students and we are proud of our partnership with you,” said Zimmerman.