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James Clemens students experiment with ‘dining-in’ scenario

Teagan Steuer, second from right, planned, cooked and served a home-cooked meal to her family in conjunction with "Dining In for Healthy Families" on Dec. 3. Steuer is a student in Sherri Shamwell's family and consumer science class at James Clemens High School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Teagan Steuer, second from right, planned, cooked and served a home-cooked meal to her family in conjunction with “Dining In for Healthy Families” on Dec. 3. Steuer is a student in Sherri Shamwell’s family and consumer science class at James Clemens High School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Ditch the drive-through and eat in.

Family and consumer science students at James Clemens High School tried “Dining-In for Healthy Families.” They planned a menu, grocery shopped, cooked and ate at home with their families.

Sherri Shamwell asked students “to focus more on ‘dining in’ with family versus an extremely healthy meal (although I did encourage it). Students were required to pick and make three items. Most chose a salad, main entree and dessert.”

Shamwell’s students submitted a detailed list of grocery purchases, a pricing breakdown for each menu item and total cost. “We used our math skills to calculate average costs of the meals prepared in class and compared that average with the cost of eating out,” she said.

A sample menu for the student included homemade Caesar salad, Fettuccini Alfredo and honey-oatmeal raisin cookies.

Students also set the table properly and took photographs. One family member completed an evaluation form. Each student spent five hours minimum in planning, shopping, prepping, serving and cleaning up — for one meal.

When Shamwell first suggested ‘dining in,’ “the kids looked at me like I was crazy. But, afterwards, I only got positive feedback. I learned some students don’t even have a family table to sit at.”

Student Teagan Steuer has decided to cook one meal weekly for her family.

Before starting the unit, Shamwell conducted her own informal survey on students’ dining-in habits with families. Her students “who are struggling with personal issues had families who did not eat together on a regular basis. After the survey and their research, all students agreed with the findings.”

The class completed research at casacolumbia.org about family dining. Shamwell said CASAColumbia has surveyed thousands of American teens and parents to identify situations influencing the risk of teen substance abuse.

“We learned that parental engagement in children’s lives is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs,” Shamwell said.

Shamwell hopes the experiment will cause students “one day to remember the value of dining in with their spouses and children. It is so important.”

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