NES hosts their first restaurant invasion, providing students with unique experience

They came, they ate, but most importantly, they learned.
The Nehalem Elementary School hosted its first restaurant invasion in the school’s cafeteria Dec. 11. It was an idea that formed last spring when the school was looking for ways to bring in more quality local foods for their students.
By Max Kirkendall
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“We started thinking about doing an event maybe once a month where restaurants could come in and cook for our kids so we could expose them to more high quality dining and we could branch off into proper etiquette and talk about career paths,” school Principal Kristi Woika said.
After further discussion, the school decided to do just three restaurant invasions per year, the first included food from the Offshore Grill and included both fifth grade classes at the elementary school. The kids enjoyed a freshly prepared taco cooked by Offshore Grill owner Jake Burden. But the local restaurant was not the only community group participating in the event. Adding to the overall restaurant experience was CARTM, who provided linen, glasses, cutlery and plates for the kids.
“We had a lot of different community partners,” Woika said. “The Mudd Nick Foundation gave us money to help fund this. The local farmers gave us meat for our tacos. We wanted to make it kid friendly, but a little fancier.”
Prior to the event, the fifth graders of Nehalem were taught table manners and proper dining etiquette by their teachers to make sure they had the full restaurant experience. Aside from the annual restaurant field trips provided by the Mudd Nick Foundation, the restaurant invasion proved to be the only other restaurant experience the kids received during the year.
“I think it is something different for the kids,” Woika said. “The Mudd Nick foundation provides opportunities for our kids to do these amazing trips to restaurants and there’s kids who might not experience that otherwise. Those trips are awesome, but to bring that experience to your school, it’s cheaper, it makes it accessible for all grades and it allows all these different community groups to get together.”
In addition to the delicious food, the kids also had the opportunity to hear from those local community groups, who talked about their career paths in hopes of inspiring the students. Speakers included a local farmer, who spoke on local resources and where their food comes from, a CARTM representative, who talked about the value of compost, as well as Burden who spoke about his experience getting into the restaurant business.
The restaurant invasion was just the first of three events. The next one, which will be later in the year will feature food from Salmonberry Saloon and host the third and fourth grades. The last will be for the second and first grade and feature food from Neah-Kah-Nie Bistro.
Although the school originally had the idea of having this be a weekly event at the elementary school, they ultimately found that it would work much better as an individual event separate from the school.
“First we thought, let’s run it through our school lunch program and we can get local food and do it every week but that’s really complicated to make happen through the school lunch program,” Woika said. “It’s much easier to do an event that isn’t connected to the school program.”
The overwhelming feeling from the students, staff and community members was that the event was a big success and hopefully one that will provide the kids a unique experience, while also teaching a few life lessons.
“We want kids to be eating good food and have them pushing their taste buds by trying new foods,” Woika said. “Any time you can feed kids differently and intentionally, by pushing them in what they eat, it’s a great experience for the kids.”