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It Pays to Mind Your Manners

Kids get catered lunch as reward for polite behavior.

The typical school lunchroom is a raucous scene, and table manners are often sacrificed to more immediate behavior priorities. But in the Richland One School District in Columbia, SC, the Office of Student Nutrition Services may have found a workable strategy for getting kids to mind their manners. Called the Silver Spoon Lunch Program, it rewards classes that exhibit exemplary cafeteria behavior with treats, including a monthly grand prize of a catered lunch served by the principal of the school.

“The idea came as part of a character education program,” says Misha Lawyer, RD, the district nutritionist. “It is a way to encourage the students to show good manners and to get recognized for it.”

The winning class, generally less than 30 students, gets to sit at a special section in the cafeteria, complete with tablecloths, linen napkins, china, silverware and even special treats served in parfait glasses. They are served their lunch by the school principal and other school staff (the lunch is a fully reimbursable meal under National School Lunch guidelines).

The notion was piloted at two elementary schools last spring and has migrated to other district elementaries since. It was impressive enough that it won a National Customer Services Award from the USDA this year.

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