Proper table manners and conversation techniques are sometimes overlooked in today’s busy family lives. However, students at Roosevelt Elementary School in Neenah have had the opportunity to learn dining etiquette as part of a unique program called the “Buddy Bistro.”
All students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade participate in the first-year program and each student gets four opportunities to dine at the Bistro. In their first three opportunities, the students order hot lunch or bring their own lunch and transfer the food to real plates and glasses while using real silverware. In the fourth visit, local restaurants cater a meal and the students dine with ThedaClark hospital employee mentors.
The first visit to the Bistro involves learning table manners such as placing of silverware and napkins, passing food around the table and sitting with appropriate posture. Students also learn how to create conversation at the table by asking others about their interests or how their day is going. The second visit focuses on healthy eating habits and the third is a review of everything they learned. Students do their own dishes after the meal and put everything away.
“We’ve heard great feedback from parents that the students are carrying these manners to their own dinner tables,” said principal Phil Johnson. “Just simple techniques like passing food around the table are things we sometimes forget at home.”
The event is held in the gym instead of the typically loud cafeteria and students are spread apart into tables of four. In fact, teacher Susan Michlig, who oversees the Buddy Bistro program, noted that occasionally the doors of the gym are left open so that students notice the clamor from the lunchroom across the hall during their meal.
“One of the things students have mentioned they like best about the Bistro is the calming nature of it,” said Michlig, who usually plays soft dinner music while the students are dining. “Students are only allowed to talk to others at their own table in a low voice and not yell to others across the room.”
Roosevelt has an existing program with ThedaClark Hospital where its employees serve as reading buddies for the students. The buddies are invited to dine with the students, but are treated as guests and aren’t allowed to help with dishes or clean up.
The majority of the program is funded by an anonymous donor. Local businesses which provided meals included Four Seasons Restaurant, Twin City Diner, King Wok, Pagoni’s Pizza, Papa’s Cafe, Hong Kong Buffet and Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta.