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Uncle Carl's Canteen has been around for over 25 years, and while the basic combination of diligent prep work and eager students has remained constant, the scope of the program has grown over the years.
Originally operated by Foods Services students in the Occupational Entrance Course (OEC) in the 1980s, the canteen provided hands-on learning to students who sometimes struggled in a traditional classroom setting. "The program empowered students," reflected former teacher Jeff Kerr, who has fond memories of the canteen and the students who ran it. "They really were entrepreneurs."
It was during Kerr's time at ECI that the school secured funding for a complete kitchen overhaul. A biology lab was transformed into a state of the art kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances, coolers, and plenty of workspace.
The upgrade, combined with the arrival of a new teacher in 1990 with a passion for cooking, and the movement towards healthier lifestyle choices led to a gradual change in the menu. Once featuring processed foods, such as pizza pops, the canteen now offers healthier alternatives prepared from scratch.
The course is offered every semester and students can take part as many as four times during their high school years, earning a maximum of four credits.
Students are assigned specific tasks each day, from making the canteen's signature banana chocolate chip muffins to doing the dishes. And with only one hour to prepare the day's menu items, it is essential for everyone to get down to business and stay focused.
Lunch menu items range in price from $3.00 to $6.00. Snack items, juices, and water are also available. The Program is run by teacher, Mr. Waterman, and educational assistant, Mrs. Marcynik.