Open thread: Dishes and cutlery

There was a lot of commentary on my Spork post about the lack of silverware in school cafeterias. I think we all agree that we need to bring back real spoons and forks. But some readers were shocked that I oppose knives in the cafeteria. I find that funny because I do believe that knives are not appropriate.

Although it’s true that forks and sporks are pointier in some cases, for some kids “knife” is a loaded word. There are students with an emotional or behavior disorder who have difficulty with self-control and regulation of emotion. Have you ever had a student attack their parent on school grounds with an object? That’s just one example. Oh, I have stories!

Let’s go back to trays and plates. Divided trays? Flat trays? Plates on trays? Multiple small plates? One large plate?

What do you think?

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63 thoughts on “Open thread: Dishes and cutlery”

  1. I like the hard plastic trays with real silverware. I think multiple plates would be time consuming to wash. Often our cafe uses disposable tray with sporks.

  2. Prefer hard plastic trays. Maybe plastic isn't the best material, but it would last a long time and be reusable. Our cafeteria uses styrofoam trays, which makes me crazy.

    I think they need to be the divided trays. Although that contributes to the institutional feeling, there are just some foods that shouldn't touch (anything with sauce and your dessert or fruit, for example). Multiple plates just creates more work and expense and water waste, plus it's very difficult to carry through the line to your seat.

    I have mixed feelings about knives. Having been on the other side of an angry child and a pair of scissors, I would agree that the concerns are valid; however, that child is dangerous regardless of the situation. Maybe THAT child needs to eat without a knife (and away from the other kids) instead of treating all of the children like criminals.

    One thing that hasn't come up but I feel is an issue is where the children sit. In some classes I have seen them forced to sit boy/girl with their homeroom. Some let the boys have a table and the girls have a table within their grade, and can sit where they like. I have seen some who are allowed to choose seats. Considering this is the 20 minutes a day when they are allowed to talk, shouldn't we encourage the social aspect of eating together? I think even prisoners are allowed to eat with a friend and talk! Why are we making lunch into a punishment?

  3. We always had those divided hard plastic trays and real silverwear, which worked well. I remember in 4th grade, our teacher went around teaching the boys in my class how to properly use utensils. (Girls had it down ;)) We didn't have knives (I think), but I dont see what's wrong for kids to use actual silverwear for lunch. I liked Jamie Oliver's episode where he requested the kids be given knives and shown how to use the utensils. It was baffling to see that even older kids had no idea how to properly use utensils. Learning doesn't stop just because it's lunch time.

  4. I don't agree on the knife issue. I wouldn't provide them with steak knifes but what about butter knifes? It'd be hard to hurt anybody with them. It is absolutely horrifying to me that most grown-up Americans don't know how to properly eat with a fork and a knife. I've been living in the States for 7 years and have seen some awful attempts: knife in the left one, fork in the right (a right-handed person); holding the fork down in a vertical position using a fist; cutting a piece off and switching fork to the right hand to eat it with etc. etc. At our daily family dinners (4-6 grown-ups, we don't have kids yet) I'm usually the only one who has a need to use a knife; my 6 year old nephew doesn't know how to use a fork. And it's not just the fact that schools don't provide them, parents don't teach it to their kids. And how could they? Most of them don't know any better. Sad.
    G.

  5. Our primary students will intentionally be eating lunch in the classroom starting in September. The food will be simple, wholesome, healthy, many fresh made products, baked bread, homemade granola without nuts, local fruits and vegetables, promotion of white milk only (and soy) etc. I am considering real forks and spoons but not knives.(Even though silverware has to be soaked, picked up by hand, placed tines up in baskets, then ran through the dishmachine twice, quite labor intensive and uses special chemicals.) In some schools..it disappears, we have yet to find out where it all goes. The oddest thing. We have checked garbage cans and such but the continual replacement costs are unavoidable. Hoping with teachers involved we'll have better control over losses. We don't even keep cutlery knives used by kitchen staff in view of children. You just want to be "proactive" and decrease any potential for temptation, normal with children. We will still have plastic knives available. In the classrooms, teachers will be able to actively promote the healthy foods, help teach manners, create a calm, family environment in the classroom (everyone has someone) children eat slowly, enough time for their tummy to signal their brain that they are full, avoiding overeating. They take responsibiity for their eating area, less mess. The room is calm and soothing…makes for a calm afternoon, enhances teaching. The teachers can also glance at what children are eating from home. Will know who is going to be ramped up due to lots of sweets and who has very little, we can help if teachers sense neglect or lack of food due to these finacially challenging times. PS-it is impossible to eat a salad (not sharp enough to pick up lettuce) or soup (hurts top of mouth and soup runs through it) with a spork, even though a spork takes the place of 2 pieces of plastic which means less plastic overall.

  6. PS-We will still be using plastic trays, not all kids like their food to touch, and since they walk a short distance to their classrooms the compartment trays hold the food items tighter than plates, less spills. Room for silverware and milk on the tray as well.

  7. Repeating my previous comment on the subject: I wouldn't allow someone control over my children who doesn't trust them to cut up their own steak. It's attitudes like this that explain why less than a hundred years ago 12-year olds were able to work hard and think for themselves, and now they can barely pick their own noses. But what do you expect? Treat people like babies their entire lives, and they never become adults.

    Also, food for thought: Why does the government's "official food pyramid" not come from the Health Department, or even the Food and Drug Administration, but the Department of AGRICULTURE?

  8. I think reusable, divided trays are best. I think the size is important as well. I know from experience, the kids expect every space to be filled. Not a problem in theory, but they don't want them filled with reasonable portions and healthy food…they want a tray of junk. (something my school is working on)
    We have always used real silverware, including butter knives if needed.

  9. Well, I am in England and 22 if that makes a difference and we always had a plastic tray with proper ceramic plates and bowls and metal knives, forks and spoons as appropriate from the age of 4 all the way up to leaving at 17. I don't see why most children should not be allowed a knife, we are not really talking anything overly sharp and you would be able to do more damage stabbing someone with a fork I would think.

    Saying that we always had food that was recognisable as standard meals, for the meat options, it was always some form of meat a roast on Wednesdays and fish on Fridays, then potatoes/rice/pasta and then two or three veg or a side salad if something like bolognese with a pudding of sponge and custard, trifle or fruit salad etc. and milk, water or fruit juice to drink.

  10. My school uses plastic forks and spoons, multiple plates/bowl thingies, no trays. I don't agree with the divided trays, for some reason that always reminds me of prision food and the idea of eating off the same surface that someone else did only yesterday (with the possibility that it was skipped over and not washed) sort of makes me lose my appetite.

    I think there should be one or two real plates, with real silverware (and maybe a duller knife if absolutely nessecary, but not with really little kids obviously) in cafeterias.

  11. It's possible to stab someone with a pencil, too. Are we going to outlaw those next? If you want to serve proper meals to children at school, not just mushy over-processed crap easy to chop into pieces with sporks, then the attendant silverware needs to be on the table.

    Punish violent kids and separate them from the ones who are able to exercise self control. Don't punish all kids for a tiny minority's bad behavior.

  12. The food pyramid was built when commodities needed more support. Basically the need to sell more grain/corn etc, so they invented the pyramid. "tell the people they need to eat more servings of grain/carbs/starches etc…and they will." it was marketing scheme invented to sell more product. It has nothing to do with actual daily nutrition. Because actual daily nutrition cannot be generalized for everyone. It is as individual as the individual.

    Sorry to get off subject.

  13. To Anonymous at 9:26AM why obviously not a knife for really little kids? Assuming you mean of standard school starting age 4/5/6ish then surely they will be using a knife to some extent at home? Yes, have a supervisor who is willing to help with cutting if needed but most able bodied children of school age are able to have at least a pretty decent attempt at cutting meat/veg.

  14. As someone who has worked in schools where weapons are a reality (I have had my share of hunting knives, box cutters, guns, even a stun gun scare), I can honestly tell you that I have never had a fork or spoon pulled on me. I doubt, with the access kids have to knives in their own kitchen drawers, they're waiting for the school to offer one before they think to bring one to the class room.

    If a child or teen goes to a restaurant, no one takes the knife away from them. And, it is disgusting that as Americans, we fight for our children's rights to wear crop tops and hole-riddle jeans to school, but when it comes to eating like a civilized human, we look away.

    If your child hasn't shived you in your own kitchen, and you've not been shived in a Denny's or other eating establishments that offer knives to patrons, I'm guessing your school/eating-knife fears are a little misplaced.

    There are many companies (treecycle.com is one) that offers disposable, COMPOSTABLE, and biodegradeable foodservice trays and utensils. A kitchen with no wash station can still use disposables, but with less of an environmental impact (even if in the landfill, it will biodegrade).

    I think the heavy plastic or even metal trays (divided is fine, as it helps kids learn "I need a protein that is the BIG focus, and the carb should be smaller than that, and I have two other spots, so I must need to veggies or a fruit and a veggie!") would be a great investment, and then even if you use the spork or are just too convinced of kindergarden shiving, then at least you've reduced the disposable waste AND lended a bit of "real food on a real plate" feeling.

  15. I personally like the hard plastic trays broken up into compartments with a full silverware set. I don't see the issue with knives. Am I saying that the kids should have a steak knife? No! The fact that they will draw a connection between something that looks like that and a weapon is very real and when a fight happens it would most likely be the stabber of choice. But I don't see anything wrong with a butter knife. They're already rounded and as dangerous as a spoon and probably less than a spork or scissors or a sharp pencil or a pen. I think that's a big issue in most schools, one that probably doesn't even belong on a blog like this: Schools are too ¡OMG!OMG¡OMG! when it comes to ANYTHING these days. I mean students get arrested (cuffed and everything) for simple things like drawing on a desk. As if that's going to help anything?

    But back to the post: Sturdy, divided trays and metal utensil set. I see where some above are coming from of punish the few not the whole group. So we have to wait for a kid to stab soemone before they're punished? How many kids have to be stabbed before parents do their angry-active-parent thing? Realistically, a school cannot just punish the few when it comes to something lethal. One kid brings a gun to school (it happens often enough) and metal detectors get setup at the entrances of the school that everyone has to go through. Waiting for the problem to arise and then reacting, which allows the children to learn right/wrong/whatever could be very dangerous in such a situation if something like http://bit.ly/8wPzLv is used in the caefteria.

    PS I've sent some requests out to a few child psych professors at the local Uni (Ohio State) for their opinion on the matter, if there's any scientific study that says this ban should be in place or more of a post-9/11 paranoid world rule.

  16. Children go to school to learn. If we can't trust them with a butter knife to learn how to cut up their meat, then we can't trust them with rulers or pencils which can be decidely MORE dangerous.

    The argument that children can't be given 'dangerous' butter knives is ridiculous and a cop-out used by schools to avoid investing more in cutlery and the school lunch program. Chicken nuggets are easier to eat, but they'll learn how to wield the knife safely if they're taught how to do it at lunch time while eating real food.

    When I was in elementary school (mid-80's), K – 3 teachers ate lunch in the cafeteria with their classes to assist students and encourage us to try new foods – veggies, salad, tuna boats, etc. I can remember Mrs. Giralico working her way around the table helping everyone cut their Salisbury steak into smaller, safer bites. She didn't do it for us, but showed US how to do it ourselves – how to hold the knife, which hand to use, not to poke the meat or saw at it wildly.

    It never occurred to my parents that they needed to teach me to use a knife, but they didn't have to. My teachers did.

    Why are we trying to make children LESS independent? Baffling!!!

    Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

  17. I'm a teacher too, and I have plenty of stories about kids throwing desks or chairs at teachers or other students. Does that mean we should get rid of desks in classrooms? Of course not. It means we take extra measures with ED kids to keep everyone safe. A butter knife is not an inherently dangerous object, any more than a desk is. It's silly to say that because a very few kids are going to have a hard time handling a butter knife, the thousands of students who would benefit from learning how to use cutlery and appropriate table behavior should be denied that chance. Teach for enough years and you'll have stories about all kinds of ordinary objects used inappropriately or dangerously by kids…that doesn't mean we should take them all away.

  18. I have to comment that the other day I came in and two classes were doing projects in my cafeteria before lunch. I had commented to someone the day before how nice it is for the kids when they drop a tray pretty much I am the only one who hears about it, I dropped a melmac bowl which hit just right to shatter. The classes all turned around and gawked at me. I burst out laughing and said I am not used to an audience. so there are advantages of no plates bowls hard trays…..saves kids the mortification. That being said we used all those plus real spoons forks and knives until two years ago. I still keep a few out there for kids who can't stand plastic.

  19. There's a big differnece between a butter knife, a steak knife and a hunting knife. Butter knives are appropriate for youngsters. As are good table manners.

  20. I like the divided plastic trays. It helps control portion size better than one big tray and it keeps things from running together.
    We use them at home sometimes and the kids love them!
    Also, big fan of metal silverware. Nothing tastes as good when you eat it from a plastic utensil! That being said I agree with no knives. Too much temptation.

  21. My school uses hard, divided plastic trays and real silverware (forks and spoons only). Every now and then they'll put out styrofoam trays and sporks, but that's usually only when there's a problem with the dishwasher.

  22. I'm with you, Mrs. Q. Forks and spoons, yes. Knives usually not necessary. Butter and honey can be spread with a spoon. Few cafeterias offer anything so solid it requires a knife to cut.

    As for trays, if the food is cooked and served in-house, use divided trays. Many children do not like food that is touching other food. Each item gets it spot.

    Divided trays = one unit per child = efficiency. Dirty trays go in a cafeteria dishwasher designed for cutlery and trays and can be handled in seconds. If dishwashers are human, you'll need three sinks and a power washing tool as they had when I was a child. That's easy too, though it would consume far too much water. Automatic dishwashers are better for the environment.

    Thanks for asking.

  23. I think that plastic divided trays are the way to go for efficiency, environmentality, and child friendliness. They keep foods separate, demonstrate proper portion sizes (presumably), and are easy for children to handle (less chance of something slipping off the tray). I also think that students should be given spoons, forks, and butter knifes. Students need to learn how to eat real food properly. Like other commenters have said, a student with behavioral problems will find anything to use as a weapon. Butter knives are no more dangerous than other things found at schools.

  24. I think divided stainless steel trays would be good, with metal forks and spoons–and yes, butter knives when appropriate–should be standard. Elementary trays should be smaller than secondary school trays.
    To prevent silverware from disappearing, have kids drop it into a basin of soapy water a few steps before they get to the trash cans.

  25. Well, as I've discussed with you a little before, my passion is in reducing the waste of not only school lunches, but packed lunches as well.
    The school my children attend welcome parents to visit and join their kids for lunch in the cafeteria, but what I see there makes my stomach turn. Not only the food – of both the school served lunches and the lunchbox toting kids too, but the amount of single-serve, one-use, disposable packaging that fills bin after bin makes me want to cry! It's a big part of why I started doing my own lunch blog, to show that packing a waste-free lunch is not only doable, but can be fun too!
    The time it takes me to pack a waste-free lunch is no longer than packing a fully disposable one. My biggest time drain involved in the whole process is taking the photos to post on my blog and the blog maintenance itself! 🙂

    When I was growing up the cafeteria lunches were served on the large plastic/melamine trays with real cutlery. By the time I had graduated from school and began teaching I saw a whole new world happening in the cafeterias: styrofoam trays, plastic forks packaged in plastic bags with a paper napkin and straw (also in its' own plastic wrapper). Many kids took the pack of plastic stuff even if they had no use for it and it all ended up, so many times unopened, in a garbage barrel (lined with yet another layer of plastic, of course!). At some schools even the milk was packaged in plastic bags, a strange sight indeed, that the kids speared with a sharp pointy straw, sort of like a CapriSun.

    The waste was, and continues to be, mind-boggling.

  26. Our school uses plastic divided trays. They also use plastic *actual* forks and spoons (separate, not sporked together). I wish that they would use actual silverware, but at least they aren't using a spork. I'm sure it has something to do with the added cost of washing them along with the trays. They do, however,
    get recycled, along with the milk/water/juice bottles. We have a lady that stands next to the bins and helps them put them in the right place. The kids are even learning about recycling at lunch. I like that.

    For those schools choosing to use styrofoam, it would be awesome if they made the switch to compostable trays. Just toss the meaty stuff in the trash; then toss the entire tray along with the compostable stuff in another "to be composted" bin. They work really quickly, most break down after just 45 days. If its a matter of price, schools could always sell the compost ('cause there's gonna be alot) to local residents or local home improvement/gardening stores, garden clubs, the city..anything really. The extra money from the compost could help offset the price…

    As far as knives in schools…no way. Yes, kids need to learn to use them, but that can be left to the parents, at home. Not letting them use a knife in school isn't going to cause some major nation-wide learning deficit. But, it may save a few kids from getting accidentally poked in the eye.

  27. Maybe "knife" would stop being a "loaded word" if adults stopped treating it as one, and put things in context. A butter knife is hardly a switch blade. If schools stopped treating the two items as the same thing, I think it's unlikely kids would believe a butter knife could be used as a weapon.

    I've never heard of school children using forks or pencils as a weapon, and surely those are more sharp than butter knives. I imagine if kids treat blunt butter knives as weapons it's because the adults around them do.

    After all, there are (hopefully) knives in the students' homes, without parents worrying that their children are going to attack them with deadly butter knives. Our overreaction has led to them becoming "weapons."

  28. Children need to be taught that a knife is something you prepare and eat food with…

  29. I was actually pretty surprised when I started reading your blog, to see all the prepackaged food and plastic cutlery.

    At my old school, we had washable/reusable divided trays, and real silverware, including butter knives (though I'm sure there weren't butter knives in the elementary cafeteria). Sure some silverware accidently got chucked in the trash sometimes, but I think it the end it'd come out to be cheaper and better for the environment.

    And for the record, at my K-12 school, there was never any issues with the butter knives. Most kids didn't even use them, as most of the food served didn't require knives.

  30. My daughter's school just started using plates but did use plastic trays, and not microwave containers of food. And her school's salad bar is usually fresh. The problem with the plates though is my daughter told me that you get a plate with your "hot food" and have another smaller plate for salad. The other day my daughter said they didn't have salad plates, so she only had nachos for lunch!! I'm a single mom on a very tight budget but I'm starting to get menus and going to make my daughter's lunches. I was worried about all the separate food containers I'll need (my daughter doesn't like sandwiches/good thing I'm a chef) but I found this great product called the laptop lunch box (can google it) and it is all in one and has no harmful chemicals that most plastics have. I'm just learning how bad the school lunches are, even if their fresher- still most of the same processed garbage. Thank you for opening people eyes.

  31. Oh I asked my daughter after watching Jamie Oliver's new show if she has forks and knives. I was surprised to find that forks are only when really needed and most of it she has to use a spoon or just finger food! What is America coming to?!

  32. I'm a chef and at restaurant to make sure metal silverware doesn't go into the trash, the trash cans have lids that are magnetic. So when you drop the food in the silverware clings to the lid.

  33. I have seen butter knives cut children quite often, unless that are very dull and small enough, specialized, for little hands. Oversized adult silverware will not work. Many children have only minutes to eat their lunch since many tend to socialize more than eat. Fumbling with oversized silverware and butter knives sharp enough to cut meat is not wise. Unless…children have alot of time and alotof practice. This is the reality no matter how we "dice it." 🙂
    PS-My 4th grader carves wood with a very sharp knife and has cut himself with a butter knife, lets his guard down.

  34. I am an ABA tutor for autistic kids and while I have been "attacked" with knives before I still don't feel that is grounds to keep them out of a school cafeteria. One such child was 3 years old and his parents gave him a little butter knife to use to cut his toast during a therapy session one day. He had a meltdown and ran at me with the knife and I grabbed it out of his hand.
    Ironically enough, that was one of the most unmemorable therapy sessions ever. Thinking of all the items I have been physically injured with, knife ranks almost at the bottom of the list. Legos, pens, school chairs, wooden puzzles, and story books inflict more damage and injurty than knives (a wooden puzzle piece managed to slice my forehead open). I think that's because you're not on the look out for being pummeled with a little metal chair, whereas anytime knives are involved you're very aware of what the child is doing.

    That being said, I don't think knives are really necessary, just from a budget standpoint. When I was in elementary school, we had real forks and spoons and knives and no one really used their knife. First of all, the food we ate rarely required cutting, but also eating things with your hands is simply easier and if parents aren't around to scoff at kids for not using a knife, I don't think many of them would actually bother.

  35. "If you haven't worked with an emotionally or behaviorally disordered student"

    This is just me nit-picking, but please use people first language. "students with emotional behavioral disorders" would be more appropriate.

    Just in case you don't know what that is, I'll add the wikipedia link (so I don't show any bias to a particular database)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People-first_language

  36. I am a teacher, and we have our fair share of weapon scares none of which involved normal household cutlery. I am 25 and when I was in junior high (7/8 grade) we had the heavy plastic trays with compartments, and real knives, forks and spoons. And there was an incident in the cafeteria once, but it did not involve the silverware. A student took that heavy plastic tray and bashed it over another students head. The tray broke in half on impact and scratched the hell out of the the student's face. And what we didn't understand as students after that, is that the trays remained but we promptly went to the Spork system. What do you think is more dangerous?

    I think students need to have practice using real knives and forks, I can't stand seeing those children on Jamie's food revolution that don't know. I don't think that it is 100% up to teachers to teach these skills but we certainly can reinforce them!

  37. I am now living on the Franco-Swiss border for work (originally a Midwest girl). My friend has a two-year-old son attending preschool/day care here (also a displaced-for-work US family). The children at his preschool sit down to a meal family-style – using real silverware and plates and serving themselves from larger plates. Each full meal ends with an appropriate dessert. They learn how to take their time, make food choices, portion control, and eat with appropriate manners and independence.

    And we can't give our 5+-year-olds knives? Shame on us! I am certainly not looking forward to having kids and sending them to schools in the US. Maybe I'll stay an ex-pat…

  38. I remember when I was in elementary school (1995-2000) we had hard plastic divided trays. In addition to simplifying cleanup for the lunchroom staff, this also seemed to make transporting the food through the line and to my seat less of a balancing act…the tiny styrofoam trays we got in middle school and high school just seemed too flimsy.

    I currently attend college, and the one year I lived in the dorms, we had the option of getting food "for here" or "to go" The "for here" people got real plates and the "to go" people got heavy paper plates; everyone got biodegradable silverware.

    This year, I spent two terms working at a campus-run child care facility, and for meals and snack the kids (ranging in age from toddler to fifth grade) all use real plates, cups…and SILVERWARE, including butter knives. That's right, even the preschoolers used silverware — sure they need assistance sometimes, but they generally do a pretty good job. 🙂

  39. I, for one, have had far more kitchen accidents involving forks (spearing myself while preparing baked potatoes is a prime example) than I have ever had with a serrated butter knife. I think Jamie Oliver proved the point regarding trusting kids to use silverware on his Food Revolution show. If teachers take the time to show children how to properly use something, then they begin to properly use it.

    Have you ever tried to cut yourself with a butter knife? It would take a lot of effort. I think a person could inflict pain far more quickly with a plastic spork than they could using a metal serrated butter knife.

    And kudos to Frogfarm–I was going to quote your original post about 12 year olds sailing ships 100 years ago if you hadn't done the honors yourself. haha. I think you sum it up perfectly: children are capable of doing exactly as much as we trust them to do.

  40. Growing up we had divided hard plastic trays & real silverware. Including knives. I get where you are coming from with behavior disordered children. When I grew up (I'm 35 yo) you never heard of children with these disorders, you never heard of chidren attacking teachers out of anger.
    I'm not invalidating some of these disorders, but I think a fat lot of these problems boil down to direction at home. I was taught to show my teachers respect. Whether or not I acutally respected them. There's a difference. If I ever even thought of attacking a teacher (or any other 'elder' for that matter) my backside would have been black and blue and I wouldn't have seen the outside of my bedroom for months.
    But, back to the knife issue. I often wonder if a lot of these behavioral disorders can be treated (or even cured) with proper nutrition. All of these preservatives & additives are doing some really really nasty things to our insides. Its not just about weight issues, environmental issues, etc…Think about the spike in autism, asthma, food allergies, skin disorders, learning disabilities, etc, etc, etc…has anyone stopped to wonder if maybe all of these are our bodies way of rebelling against all of the crap we put into them?

  41. I used to work with emotionally disturbed children and I found that the knives that were used at our school were the least of my worries. Our students received 25 minutes for lunch and our school opted to allow the children who finished early to walk outside and get some fresh air in a specified area of the campus. More often than not I had books, pencils and batteries (yes batteries) thrown at me by my ED students rather than them taking knives after me. The 25 minutes was not always adequate, but I generally allowed them a little extra time so as not to feel rushed in the end.

  42. I worked in a childcare center with 2-5 year olds, and we ate on glass plates with real cups and real silverware. Including butter knives. It was never an issue. I do not think that knives themselves are the issue, but I also don't like the idea of "separating" the "bad" kids by not giving them the butter knife (they'll just take one from another kid, anyway, right?). I am on the pro-(butter)knife side of the fence on this. Even my daughter who is not in kindergarten yet is allowed her own knife, though she hasn't mastered it yet. If I let her have it at home, I certainly think she's capable using one at school. Though, for now, her lunches will absolutely come from home, so that doesn't exactly matter, anyway.

  43. My cousin (who is an American) lives with her husband and four children in Norway. In pre-school they have a class in using knives the proper way (knife-school). It teaches about safety in an outdoor setting as well as indoors. This would never go over here in the US! Americans are inherently ready to sue the school district on any little thing. That is why we don't have utensils. It is sad, really. Proper manners are not being taught in the home either. That is why none of the children can use a knife and fork properly. We are FAR behind here in the US.

  44. I cannot believe you suburban types are falling for this. This blog is a farce set up by Jamie Oliver's publicist.

  45. I have adult children, but these issues were real when they were in school. It would take me 3-4 weeks of summer vacation to have my children eat properly. The 20 minute lunch period (from food line to leaving the lunchroom) caused them to inhale their lunch, eat with their hands and inadequate utensils, and lose all table manners. This is a multilevel problem which needs complete readressing. Keep up the good work!

  46. I was a brown-bagger for most of my life but one year, I went to boarding school (when I was 10). There, they taught us, in the dining room, how to use a knife and fork with proper form, place a napkin on our laps and pass the food around (meals were served family-style). A teacher or other staff person would sit at the head of each table and facilitate meal-time conversation. I wish every school would do that! The commenter who said that her school was starting to do lunch in the classroom, I like that idea!

    (Later, when I became a teacher, everything in the lunchroom in my school was disposable.)

  47. I recall being offered metal forks, spoons, and butter knives in the cafeteria line when I was in elementary school and very few students ever picked up a knife with their fork. Most of the students just picked up a fork, and maybe a spoon if there was soup or pudding, but it wasn't often that students even picked up a knife. I think that elementary school students should be allowed the option of a butter knife.

  48. my school district always had plastic trays with little compartments. it made it easy for everybody to make sure they had everything, if there was a space open your lunch was missing something and you had to go get it before you could leave the line. they always made sure we had a complete meal. we also had real silverware including knives. i understand the issue with some kids, but my cousin went to a school with only sporks and lived at home with an overprotective mother and to this day she can not butter bread with out destroying it cuz she never had to learn to use a knife! its baffaling to me! even in kindergarten we were expected to be able to spead out pb&j on our own. the lunch ladies would help at first, but after that it was up to us. much more challenging were the little plastic pouches of milk the school district was testing. even in high school it was common to accidentilly send ur pointy straw all the way through the pouch. we never had problems with having knives around kids. if there was ever any violence in school it was a good old fashioned fist fight, and the occasional food fight, lol

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