Youth learn ‘life skills’ as members of St. James’ Food Service Ministry
There’s nothing like beef barley soup, fried and baked chicken, potato onion casserole, hot and cold tea, and a salad and fruit bar right after church.
But to former Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Hazel Jackson, the food is—pardon the pun—just the “icing on the cake.”
St. James AME Church’s Food Service Ministry should be called “Life Skills,” Jackson said. “It helps kids learn how to communicate. Communicate with adults, with each other…a lot of schools don’t even have this kind of program.”
Jackson taught at various schools over her 35 years at PPS—including Oliver, Peabody and Westinghouse. She told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, Jan. 23, that she began inviting parents of her students to a dinner at the school every year around Christmas. “I learned that so many parents hadn’t sat down with their kids ever and had dinner, and it just brought out so many things.”
Things that, maybe, a mother always wanted to say to her child. Or vice versa. Or, the feeling of togetherness, family unity.
Jackson said after retiring from Peabody High School, she was asked to administer the dinner at Westinghouse High the following year. The success of it actually kept Jackson there for three years.
Much like sports can be an avenue to youth learning other life lessons, food service has the same purpose. Jackson began this version of St. James’ Food Service Ministry six years ago, and she’s amazed at some of the notes she’s received from the youth who formerly worked in the ministry.
“A student of mine, Ricky Stinson, just sent me a card that said, ‘Every kid is one adult away from a success story,’” Jackson said. It’s those words and success stories from former students that makes the Food Service Ministry worthwhile.
“I found that food service can be a direction (for our youth) to so many other things,” Jackson said. “Because so many of our kids are not exposed to other things, and when they take food service, it’s something that gives them instant gratification. They can see what they do right then. It involves math, reading…and even helps them on (other) jobs. They’re not allowed to use cell phones during the food service,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen people (in other places) serving with a cell phone in one hand and a spoon in another.”
Jackson, who formerly owned King James BBQ locations in Pittsburgh, urges families across the Lincoln-Larimer area, as well as other areas, to attend St. James’ Food Service Ministry dinner, every fourth Sunday of the month, including this Sunday, Jan. 28, at 1 p.m. at the church’s Sumpter Hall, 444 Lincoln Ave. The $15 donation includes the all-encompassing food, desserts and beverages. But most important, it gives families a chance to bond, in a church environment, and it supports the African American youth who work the event.
The St. James AME Church’s Food Service Ministry should be called “Life Skills. It helps kids learn how to communicate. Communicate with adults, with each other…a lot of schools don’t have this kind of program.”Jackson said many first-time visitors are pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and efficiency the youth at the dinner exude.
Not only are parents from the area encouraged to attend, but parents are encouraged to have their kids participate as a Food Service member. From time to time, Jackson caters outside events, such as at the Kingsley Association. Youth working those events are paid a fee for their services. Jackson said she could be contacted by interested parents or youth by calling the church office, 412-441-9706.
Much of the $15 donation charge goes to the purchasing of food, along with paying church conference claims.
Jackson said oftentimes, there are placemats on each table, all with the Food Service Ministry’s motto firmly entrenched: “Training up children in the world they should go (Proverbs 22:6).”
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