By Community Affairs Reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chef Marc Vetri is nationally known for his fine dining. He and partner Jeff Benjamin own a family of restaurants including, Vetri Ristorante, named one of the best Italian restaurants in the country. Despite numerous honors and accolades for his excellence in the kitchen, Vetri says he got an urge to give back by helping children. Their first effort was for Alex Lemonade Stand Foundation in 2006. They raised $1,000.
“The next year we decided to make it a little bigger and we raised about $25,000,” says Vetri, “by the next year it snowballed into this massive event we have now.”
This year, the Annual Great Chefs Event raised $1.1 million for Alex’s and the Vetri Foundation. But that’s not all. Vetri started looking at school lunches.
“Schools around the nation were “re-therming” the lunches they give to kids,” he says, “they would basically order these lunches from New York and reheat them. They just were not healthy.”
Vetri says they began establishing a school lunch menu and created a process for creating lunches for kids, called the “Vetri Method.” They also designed a new way for kids to eat food at school.
“It’s called the “Eatiquette” program,” he says, “kids usually go up to an assembly line and get their food and then sit at these long tables to eat. But we brought in round tables and serve food family style.”
Vetri says a student leader will come to lunch early and set up the table for his or her comrades. Then the students will take their servings off shared plate so that eating is more interactive.
“You’re not only eating healthier food, but you’re also learning to interact,” says Vetri.
Eatiquette is in six area schools now. Vetri says the foundation will add four more in the fall. The group also provides lunches to ESF Dream Camp, a five week summer camp for at-risk kids from Philadelphia.
“This is the way that we are really able to make a difference,” says Vetri. “I mean, we know about this- I know about food. So why not share what I know.”
So far- the Vetri Foundation has provided more than 170,000 meals to thousands of children in the greater Philadelphia. They’re also training culinary students in the Vetri method of preparing school lunches and they’re hoping to do more.
“I would love 10 years from now, 20 years from now that this be the national school lunch method,” says Vetri. “I feel we all have a duty- to do something– even if it’s just a little something– to make the world a better place.”
For more info on the Vetri Foundation, go to www.vetrifoundation.org.
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