Eatiquette, the Vetri Method for school lunch, aims to transform a child's lunch from the traditional cafeteria assembly line to an environment where children gather around round tables, pass plates of food to one another, and experience social interaction and communication. Family style eating creates an interactive environment where kids don't just eat lunch, they dine. Teachers and adult volunteers model for students how to set a table, how to work together as a team, how to try new foods.Children learn to serve each other, to respect those who prepared their food, and to appreciate how healthy food can make you feel. They leave the lunch room fueled up both physically and psychologically, ready to tackle the afternoon's learning challenges.
Children sit at round tables that fit 8 to 10. This configuration allows children to pass food easily and conduct conversation. There doesn't need to be too much room between tables, just enough to squeeze by.
Plates and Silverware
It is important to use real plates and silverware that can be washed. Paper and cardboard plates cheapen the meal, create unnecessary waste and add to the cost of each meal.
Table Captains & Setting the Table
Here's where we start to get children involved and where they take ownership of the program. Each child gets to be table captain for a week. The table captains come to the dining room 15 minutes before lunch is served to set the table and to bring the cold food to the table. They wear special chef coats to indicate their important role. After their peers arrive, table captains get the hot food and bring it back to the table. Table captains encourage their friends to try new food, to use good manners, and to be involved with conversation.
Table captains bring a water pitcher and plastic tumblers to their table before each lunch service. The National School Lunch Program mandates making water available free of charge – this is a great way to comply.
Let the children know what they're eating! The chef comes out after all children have been seated to announce the menu for the day, what ingredients were used, and how it was prepared. This involves students in the process of lunch and communicates respect. If it's impossible for the chef to make the announcement before each lunch service, include the information in morning announcements. Adults love to know what good food is coming their way; kids will too.
Teachers, staff and adult volunteers are essential to the success of this program. Ideally, there should be one adult for each table and it's great if the adult can partake of lunch too. That adult models good behavior, helps children with portion size and passing the food, and initiates conversation. It's teaching, just in a different context.
Just because we want kids to eat healthy doesn't mean we're unrealistic. Dessert is served after about 15 minutes of eating. This gives kids a chance to eat the good stuff first, with a sweet treat at the end of the meal where it belongs. Table Captains again serve their tables.
Clearing and Cleaning
Clean up is another great opportunity to teach teamwork. All children stack plates and scrape leftovers onto one of the serving trays. All children assist in wiping down the table. Table captains take the dirty dishes and silverware to a clean-up station with tubs for silverware, plates and serving dishes.
Kids love to play and win games. Create incentive programs to encourage kids to try new foods. Split the lunch room crowd into two teams and create some friendly competition. Give them points when they model good table manners or try something new. Reward the winners with a special treat or privilege.
The Dining Room
Make it beautiful. Creating an inviting lunchroom is similar to creating a restaurant that invites people to dine. Too many lunchrooms look like hospital cafeterias just because it is easier to do. A little color and some interesting layouts can turn a simple room into an inviting atmosphere.