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Five-Star Food and Better Kids, All for $2.60 a Meal

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Here's a story that should inspire us all, from Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky.

The principal actors are Michael Rouse, who runs a summer camp for underprivileged children at Girard College* called Dream Camp, and Marc Vetri, arguably the finest chef cooking in Philadelphia today.

Rouse's camp gives poor children the chance to have the kind of summer camp experience only affluent kids usually enjoy -- for free. Epicures wait for weeks to get a table at Vetri's eponymous restaurant on Spruce Street, where exquisite Italian meals run into the hundreds, while the rest of us wait for hours to enjoy the same caliber fare for somewhat less at his other two restaurants, Osteria and Amis.

Now imagine this: Instead of eating lunches consisting of fried and processed foods that produce behavioral problems afterwards -- the usual fare children who qualify for free subsidized lunches get, as processed crap is about all most institutions can afford on a subsidy of $2.60 per child -- the Dream Campers get

lunches that now include panko-crusted chicken tenders, roasted chicken with mushroom risotto, baked ziti with chick-pea and cucumber salad, baked lasagna with apple-carrot salad and other tasty creations that give orange mac-n-cheese the heave-ho.

Better still, the food is not spooned onto plates by the cafeteria staff but shared family-style at each table of eight, where civilized behavior and stimulating conversation is encouraged and rewarded.

All thanks to the generosity of Marc Vetri, his business partner Jeff Benjamin, and the charity the two recently founded, the Vetri Foundation for Children.

Read the full story to learn how this particular dream became reality.

*Girard College is itself a dream world of sorts. Endowed by the estate of early American financier Stephen Girard, the institution is a boarding school for poor children from single-parent homes (Girard originally restricted it to orphaned white boys; the racial restriction was removed by a court in 1964, and the restriction to males came off a decade or so later) that gives them the kind of education found at prestigious private schools.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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