The Dinner Party Project®

Girl with SoupThe Dinner Party Project is a dynamic family-focused food education program involving children (5th-8th graders) in the entire process of producing a dinner party for their families at a school or community center.

The Dinner Party Project offers a wonderful opportunity for children to experience the fun and excitement of planning, preparing, serving and enjoying a meal with their parents and friends.

Through a five- to eight-week project, fifth though eighth grade students are taught about nutrition, food safety, meal planning, table setting, etiquette, and cooking. This powerful experience of planning a dinner party also deepens their understanding of the value of community, family, teamwork, and sharing, while building self-esteem and having fun.

The curriculum handbook provides a “Dinner Party Planner” with all the information s/he needs to conduct the program, coordinate with school staff, enlist parental and culinary help, and create local press. Homework assignments are structured to involve parents and families.

The Dinner Party Project began in Spring 2001 in the New York City metro area, and has spread across the nation to 27 U.S. cities serving 6,470 students. There have been more than 50 Dinner Parties conducted in elementary schools, middle schools, a charter school, a community girls club, The Harlem Boys and Girls Choir Academy, and a county extension center.

The following schedule is an example curriculum followed for a seven-week project:

  • Lesson One: What is a Dinner Party? – Introduction, Dining Habits, and Invitations
  • Lesson Two: What’s Cooking? –  Fresh Food, Seasonal Menus
  • Lesson Three: What Should I Eat? – Health Behaviors and Balanced Eating
  • Lesson Four: Setting the Scene – Creating the Mood, Table Setting & Etiquette
  • Lesson Five: Work Period – Recipe Testing and Collaborative Group Work
  • Lesson Six: The Dinner Party – Cooking and Hosting
  • Lesson Seven: Reflections on Dinner – Final Projects and Thank-You Notes

Volunteer Opportunities with The Dinner Party Project
SAA is facilitating three Dinner Party Projects in May-June. Volunteers are partnered with a SAA Curriculum Leader. The Dinner Party Project consists of 6 one-hour lessons plus an additional half day (2pm-8pm) on the day of the actual dinner party. Classroom lessons are scheduled in the morning as well as after-school. Volunteers assist students with cooking and distributing the meal on the night of the Dinner Party.

We are looking for volunteers for classroom lessons and to support children in the kitchen the night of the party.Contact for more information. Please specify the program of interest and neighborhood preference. Are you a current Spoons volunteer? Contact us to participate this year.

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