Back to Newsfeed

Where in the World are We Eating? A Celebration of Diversity in WSESU

Students throughout Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU) are celebrating diversity through their taste buds this year thanks to “Where in the World are We Eating,” a new program by Brattleboro Regional Food Service Director Ali West of Fresh Picks Cafe. Since the start of this school year, students have had the opportunity to visit Thailand, Jordan, and Haiti, and this month they will visit Germany. Rather than the standard lunch fare of mac and cheese, pizza, and sandwiches, once a month students are encouraged to sample new dishes like chicken satay, tabbouleh, diri kole, and bratwurst.

West was inspired to create this program to bring the entire school community together to celebrate the diversity of WSESU through the shared experience of food. She collaborated with ESOL teachers to compile a list of the 22 countries students in WSESU are from. Twenty-two countries is a lot to fit into one school year, so West selected nine countries (one per month) to focus on this year, and she plans to continue the program and visit more countries in the future. Here is the complete list of countries that students will get to explore with their taste buds this year:

  • September - Thailand

  • October - Jordan

  • November - Haiti

  • December - Germany

  • January - Kenya

  • February - Syria

  • March - The Philippines

  • April - Jamaica

  • May - Bolivia

West encouraged the entire school community at all nine schools in the district to get involved, with invitations to music teachers, art teachers, and librarians to feature music, art, and literature highlighting these countries with their students. Invitations have also gone out to 6th-12th grade social studies teachers to do in-depth studies with their students on the featured country. As a culmination of this research, students create slideshows to share throughout the district to teach about each country. For Haiti, 6th graders at Guilford Central School created an engaging slideshow that highlighted Haitian language (Kreyol), cuisine, and significant landmarks like Citadelle Laferrière. This slideshow was shared with students from pre-K through high school seniors.

On Tuesday, December 14, the lunch menu in all WSESU schools will feature German cuisine including bratwurst (sausage), reibekuchen (potato pancakes), apfelsolse (applesauce), sauerkraut, and lebkuchen (gingerbread).

“I want all of our students, no matter where they are from, to feel welcomed and celebrated in our schools,” says Ali West. As a chef and food service director, the best way that she has found to do this is through a celebration of diversity in the school meal program, which is accessible to all students again this year thanks to the USDA extension of universal meals.

Food Connects is an entrepreneurial non-profit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems. The Food Hub aggregates and delivers from over 115 regional farms and food producers to over 225 buyers in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. Their educational services focus on Farm to School programming. Acknowledged as a statewide leader, the program supports over 30 schools to increase local food purchasing, school meal participation, and food, farm, and nutrition education. Together these core programs contribute to a vibrant local economy by increasing local food purchases by schools and improving students’ nutrition and academic performance. Food Connects is frequently hired to provide leadership and consulting services for efforts to support food systems initiatives throughout New England and act as a catalyst for change.