Vetri’s ‘Eatiquette’ program launches in Norristown Area School District
Curried chickpea stew, couscous with raisins, a tossed salad with carrot slices and a tomato-infused vinaigrette. It sounds more like a dinner you’d read off a menu than a lunch served in a middle school cafeteria. But for the students of Eisenhower Science and Leadership Technology Academy, it’s just a regular Thursday lunch.
On March 6th, the Norristown Area School District launched its partnership with the Vetri Foundation for Children to bring scratch-cooked, family-style lunches to the cafeteria. Once a week, this program, called “Eatiquette,” transforms school lunches into made-from-scratch meals with fresh, locally-sourced produce.
“The kids are getting a healthier meal, nothing is processed,” explains Head Chef Cheryl Riccioli. “It's labor-intensive for us but we hope it will broaden their horizons and give them an opportunity to try new and healthier foods.”
Through the program, Vetri Foundation chefs work alongside Eisenhower’s kitchen staff to bring menus like turkey burgers with a marinated green bean salad or roast beef with rosemary roasted potatoes.
The lunch menus are inspired by seasonal ingredients, and the program also takes into account the capabilities of the school’s kitchen and its population. The menus are then tailored four times a year to change with what’s in-season.
“We create our own recipes in a web-based nutrition program that allows us to calculate all of the nutrients to make sure we’re meeting the proper guidelines,” explains Brandon Barnard of the Vetri Foundation.
Yet it’s not all about good food and healthy eating; it’s about fostering a dining experience, too. Through Eatiquette, lunches are served family-style at small round tables to practice communication and teamwork skills. Teachers and staff discuss the food and keep the conversation flowing.
Before each Eatiquette lunch, student "table captains" don chef coats, lay down plastic tablecloths, create place settings, pour water and serve lunch to their peers.
“What’s this?” a student asked as his peer spooned lunch onto his plate. “Couscous,” a teacher answered as the table burst into laughter.
Another student remarked with reserve, “I think I’m afraid of couscous.” But once the giggles and apprehension subsided, the students admitted how much they liked the new food they were eating.
The cost of lunch is the same as any other day, full $2.55, reduced $0.40 and free for those students that qualify for free lunches.
If a child does not want to eat the lunch that is served, he/she may pack a lunch for the day. But moms might want to hold off on packing that trusted PB&J sandwich.
“We actually had one kid who decided he didn’t want the packed lunch he brought with him after he saw the food we were serving,” said Barnard. “He threw away his Lunchables and decided to try our lunch instead.”
“The kids are finishing their plates, which is a great testament to how the program is going over with them,” said Wadia Goodin of the Vetri Foundation.