Maggie: Students at Cristo Rey High School, here in North Philadelphia, are getting an education in eating. And this lunchroom serves up more than just food. Here, table manners are also on the menu.
The Eatiquette Program tries to turn the typical rush-to-the-finish cafeteria line buffet into something more like a café. Students here eat off round tables, like a family. They use real plates and they eat food made from scratch right here at the school.
Quashaun Wright: We each have the responsibility of setting up the table. The table captain goes up to where the food is prepared and gets the food and brings it to the table. Then we pass it around the table and everyone eats like a family.
Maggie: Learning how to socialize the right way around the lunch table offers these students skills that they will need in the future.
Tia McDonald: If you’re not able to sit at a table and hold a knife and fork correctly, that’s going to leave an indelible mark on a potential relationship or opportunity. So, this is just as much of a skillset needed as math or English.
Maggie: Is it helpful to know how to use silverware now when you go out to dinner?
Genni Roman: Yeah, because when I was younger, like, my family never taught me, so it was just, like, weird, you know, seeing the people use it. Now I know how I feel, like, I’m sophisticated now. I like that.
Maggie: Why is it important to use real silverware? Why care about a real knife and fork?
McDonald: What you serve your food on definitely sends a message to your guests as far as what value you place on them. I think it’s important for children to know that there is an investment being put back into them.
Maggie: With the table all set, it is time to eat. So what is for lunch today?
Chef: Today on the menu for lunch, you guys will be having chicken hummus wraps. Thank you. Please enjoy.
Maggie: All of the meals are made entirely by scratch right here in the school’s kitchen. That means no processed meats, and they rarely use any frozen or canned goods.
McDonald: We make all our own salad dressings, our own sauces. We’re breaking down chickens in the kitchen.
Maggie: Does it taste much better?
Katera: Yeah, because most of the chicken I normally eat is greasy and stuff. So, I can tell that’s not as greasy as the, like, other chicken I eat.
Maggie: The Eatiquette Program costs the school about a dollar fifty per meal. That is about fifty to sixty cents more expensive than a typical school lunch.
McDonald: Unfortunately, fresh food cost more than processed food. Every penny counts, as far as a school in concerned. But, you know, we always pose the question to the school, what’s the value of your child’s nutrition? And what’s the value of the learning lessons that they’re going to take, not only from this lunch, but what they’re going to bring back to their communities, what they’re going to bring back to their families?
Maggie: Do you eat this way at home now too?
Asante Roane: I eat healthier. I don’t eat as much junk food as I would eat. I eat more fruits.
Quashaun: It often now set the table for everyone and I often clean up, wash the dishes. So, it’s affecting my performance at home.
Maggie: What did you parents say, and your family say, when you set the table for them for the first time?
Kiara Serrano: My mom was shocked. She was laughing. She never thought that I would learn how to do it, so it was kind of funny.
Maggie: Serving up a brand new dining experience, one plate at a time.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.