Stephanie Kuskie/River News
Students in Susan Schmidt’s first grade class at Crescent Elementary School in Rhinelander colored Japanese flags in preparation for their Asian lunch on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
First grader Emerson takes the first bite of her Asian-inspired lunch Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at Crescent Elementary School in Rhinelander.
1/25/2020 7:30:00 AM 80 Trays Around the World:
Rhinelander students explore international cuisine
Stephanie Kuski River News Features Reporter
Students across the School District of Rhinelander enjoyed some unique lunch offerings this week as part of the "80 Trays Around the World" campaign which offers students an opportunty to sample cuisine from around the world.
From Jan. 21-24, students had the opportunity to try a new entree from a different culture each day of the week.
On Tuesday, students went Asian, German cuisine was served on Wednesday, Mexican specialities were served on Thursday and Friday featured Italian cuisine.
In addition, each school kitchen decorated the serving area themed with different "trips" from around the world and students were encouraged to decorate and dress up for the themed days.
This campaign also provides an educational opportunity for students to learn more about the history and culture of the food they tasted.
"The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) decided to do the '80 Trays Around the World' to introduce the students to education through food," the district's food service director Pat Karaba explained.
Karaba said the initial goal was to get 80 school districts across Wisconsin involved in the "80 Trays Around the World" campaign. But since this year was the campaign's first, only 26 schools participated.
"This is the first year they've ever done it," Karaba said. "Next year it will hopefully be bigger and more schools will hopefully be involved."
In addition to tasting new dishes, students learned more about the culture behind each dish.
Susan Schmidt, first grade teacher at Crescent Elementary, said this campaign was an opportunity to further explore the cultures of the world.
"In our class each day we are going to focus on those countries," Schmidt said. "So today is Asian countries and so they're working on getting to know where Asia is located."
Schmidt's class also colored Japanese flags in preparation for their meal on Tuesday. In addition, her students practiced saying "hello" to each other in Japanese and Chinese.
"It's all about making it come alive for the students," Schmidt said. "It makes learning fun and they're excited about it."
Schmidt said exposure to different cultures is an important aspect of her students' education.
"We live in Rhinelander, so unless we educate our students about the world around us, they may never have those experiences," Schmidt said. "I want my kids to realize that it's not just about our friends right next to us, but we have a lot of different people around the world."
Practicing inclusivity was an important aspect of the "80 Trays Around the World" campaign, Karaba added.
"It's a great kickoff to a week of Martin Luther King Jr.," Karaba said. "It's a big push at this age just to get the children to understand that just because you might look different than I do, we can still be friends."
Karaba said educating through food was a big push in this campaign. She works with Taher, Inc., a food service management company contracted by the School District of Rhinelander, which sends chefs around the world a few times each year to educate through food.
"It has broadened our horizons as a food service program, because we can do things like this," Karaba said.
In this way, Karaba said a chef might travel to Vietnam to learn about Vietnmanese dishes, and when they come back to the U.S., they can cook those traditional Vietnmanese dishes for those who weren't able to travel to Vietnam to experience the culture and cuisine first-hand.
When DPI proposed the "80 Trays Around the World" campaign, Karaba said it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
In this way, this international food campaign was much more than a week of special food - it was about cultural exchange, trying new things and practicing inclusivity along the way.
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