Homework Diner Combines Nutritious Food and Homework Help

October 7, 2013 -- Low-volume voices were all that could be heard last Monday night at Manzano Mesa Elementary School as about 70 children and their parents concentrated on homework. Then came a delicious home-style meal prepared by CNM culinary students.
July 16, 2015

It was Homework Diner night at the elementary school, a weekly activity that has become a favorite of staff, children and parents.

Every Monday night for nearly two years, students, accompanied by their parents, have come to the school at 5:30 p.m. to get tutoring and help with their homework. The tutors are teachers from each grade level

“This is as much about the parents as the students,” said Principal Peggy Candelaria. “By being around the teachers, parents are learning how to help their children with school work at home.”

After the homework session is over, they are served a meal prepared by usually two, but last Monday, three CNM culinary students. The chefs that night were CNM students Vicki Baxley, Greg Senteno and Monique Mills.

Manzano Mesa’s Community School Coordinator, Deanna Creighton Cook, came up with the idea for Homework Diner. Knowing that Baxley and Mills, whose children attend the school, were culinary students, she asked them to help and they readily agreed. They have been preparing home-style meals for the 100-plus tutors, children and parents regularly ever since.

The food is purchased through a USDA grant, "Healthy Meals Fit for Life," awarded to CNM. “The grant promotes healthy eating, and that is what Vicki and Monique provide the Manzano Mesa family every week. It’s kind of an educational experience for all,” said Charlene Selbee, CNM outreach specialist and Hospitality and Tourism part-time instructor.

While currently the food is purchased through the grant, Selbee hopes that they will be able to buy it at a low cost from the Roadrunner Food Bank in the future. The grant runs out next year. The goal is to develop partnerships, such as with the food bank, in order to make the Homework Diner program self-sustaining. CNM is also reaching out to the high school culinary programs so their students can also participate in Homework Diner while learning about CNM’s culinary program. On Monday, Oct. 7, five culinary students from Atrisco Heritage High School will help out for the first time.

Selbee said that Homework Diner gives the children a chance to catch up with their school work and their parents a night off from the kitchen – a win-win for all.