RIDGEFIELD — Union Ridge Elementary is one of only nine schools nationwide selected for an innovative program that invites students on a journey to explore the unique ingredients and authentic flavors from cuisines around the world. The Global Eats initiative is being spearheaded by Ridgefield School District’s Nutrition Services provider, Chartwells School Dining Services.
Each week, students are offered three days of global menus. During the opening four-week tour, students tried foods from Mexico, Italy, India and China as part of the school lunch pilot program. Some recipes were created by celebrity chefs, including the Food Network’s Jet Tila and Aarti Sequeira.
“The school cafeteria is often one of the first places a child gets to taste and learn about foods from outside their family’s recipes or traditional cultural dishes,” director of dining services Mike Lee said. He hopes to turn food into a global adventure by encouraging students to eat together and taste new foods while learning about various cultures.
The Global Eats program does more than just introduce new dishes to the school menu; it also includes an educational program to engage students in learning about each country. There are themed posters and table toppers at each meal to teach and spark conversation among students. The program also launched a website, www.k12globaleats.com, which features chef and recipe videos, as well as fun activities for students, families and educators.
According to Chartwells’ Amber Veseley, the response from students has been enthusiastic.
“A lot of the kids are super excited about wanting to try new things,” she said. “They can’t wait to get to the cafeteria to see what they’re trying that day. It has really started them talking about the foods they recognize and the foods they enjoy.”