With baked ziti, meatballs, antipasto, salad, and cupcakes served on red and white table setting combined with portraits of the Mona Lisa and Italian landscape decorating the walls, the Kitchen Kids Café didn’t resemble, or smell, like a classroom inside Cheatham Hill Elementary School.
Fourth grade students bustled around the room with clipboards taking orders from the restaurant patrons. The waiters and waitresses were hosting the fourth annual Kitchen Kids Café to support the MUST Ministries Save it Forward Program.
“Instead of money, [the guests] are donating laundry detergent to go to the Save it Forward Program, and we are doing their mission, which is to eliminate hunger for at risk students in Cobb County Schools so they have a greater opportunity in school and life,” explained fourth grader Grayce.
Although their goal was to help eliminate hunger for those in need, they settled on laundry detergent, as the way café guests would pay for their food after learning that detergent is one of MUST Ministries’ biggest donation needs.
Before opening the restaurant, the Cheatham Hill students in Dr. Monica Alicea’s advanced learning class researched about children and families in need. They also learned about the Save it Forward program and how the program helps families at Cheatham Hill and other Cobb County Schools.
“In January, we went to the MUST Ministries warehouse to sort [food] that goes to schools for kids who have hunger issues,” added Gabrielle, fourth grade. “We went to West Cobb Diner to watch the waitresses serve people so we would know what to do at our restaurant.”
The students also studied about the culture of Italy.
“They formed committees so that they each had different responsibilities,” explained Dr. Alicea.
The Target students designed scenery, centerpieces, and banners to transform the Cheatham Hill classroom into a cafe. They also documented their work through videos and pictures.
“I painted pictures on the wall like the Mona Lisa and farmhouses in Italy to decorate the room,” said fourth grader Brody.
Other students, like Grayce, were on the menu committee and were responsible for selecting the food that they would serve.
“This has been such a great opportunity for my granddaughter, Grayce. She has learned so much about giving, cooking, and preparing different things,” added Julie Bates, who helped dish up the plates of food for the student servers.
Bates praised the work of Dr. Alicea in preparing the students to serve for a cause.
“[The students] came in very professional with their clipboards, and they presented the orders to us. They were very excited to run back and serve all of their guests,” the grandmother volunteer added. “I think community service is very important. I think this was a great opportunity for [the students.]”
Although the students made the food with donations from Publix, Great Harvest Bread Company, Starbucks, Zaxby’s, B.B.&T., and several other local establishments, they also relied on produce grown right inside their school.
The students used fresh herbs grown from a hydroponic garden that was installed thanks to a $7,000 grant that Dr. Alicea won as a third place winner in the Voya Unsung Hero Program. Using the Tower Garden, Dr. Alicea’s students grew both the lettuce for the salads and the spices used in the sauce.
Hosting the café related to the educational standards Dr. Alicea teaches about working together for a common goal and being accountable to each other and yourself. The students learned that in order for the restaurant to be a success, they would have to help each other.
“They learned life skills. They learned to cook. They learned how to clean and wait tables. It also teaches them empathy for kids in need,” the advanced learning teacher added. “We are so grateful to everyone who helped us learn what it takes to make this project a success.”