- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When 5-year-old Erika Morrow sat down to lunch Wednesday, the Miner Elementary School kindergartner was not expecting to see pink salmon covered in bright-green dill sauce or smell the tangy scent of vinegar-soaked cucumbers.

“I like pizza and chicken nuggets,” she said. “This tastes like fish.”

The meal was just part of a nearly 40-year-old Embassy Adoption Program in D.C. Public Schools that organizers champion but still recognize the challenge in trying to get students to eat different foods.

“My favorites are pizza and baloney,” said Dorian Lewis, 5, who pushed his tray to the center of the table in favor of a carton of milk and plastic fruit cup.

“The quality of the food is quite high,” Sweden’s Prince Daniel, at the school for Nordic Food Day, said in defense of the country’s food. “It’s also locally produced.”

While the food was locally prepared, most of it was donated by Nordic-friendly businesses, said Paula Reichel, coordinator for the school system’s Food Services Program.

Among the food items donated were 10,000 pounds of salmon from a Norwegian fishing council and crisp bread from mega-home-furnisher Ikea. Five young Nordic chefs instructed food service employees on how to make Swedish meatballs earlier this week.

Miner was one of four Northeast public schools Wednesday celebrating Nordic Food Day, which included three meals made up of traditional Nordic food such as cured meat, pickled vegetables and fresh fruit.

Nordic Food Day was the first event for the school system’s International Food Program. Like the adoption program, the food days are supported by embassies in the District in an effort to help students learn about other countries.

Though each of the schools was decorated with yellow and blue balloons and flags, Kenilworth Elementary School students celebrated the Danish culture, River Terrace Elementary School recognized Finland, and Norway was studied at Brookland Elementary School.

Up next is Indonesian Food Day in January, followed by Panamanian Food Day in March.

Miner food server Tuesde Hines said occasionally offering students food beyond the typical cafeteria fare is a good thing, despite some turned-up noses.

“When [the students] are outside of school, they run to the stores and get junk food,” she said. “Here they get something that’s at least healthy and something they’ve never tried before.”

One of the only members of Erika and Dorian’s table to enjoy the meal was instruction aide Calvin Cannon of Mount Rainier.

While most of the young students probably have had fish before, Mr. Cannon offered, the dill sauce puts a unique twist on the food.

“Oh I like it. It’s great to have that variety,” he said. “I grew up in the Deep South. I didn’t have Chinese food until I was in high school.”

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray also stopped by the school to spend time with the royal entourage.

His advice for the students who were unsure about the new eats was that they should “take the risk.”

“You can go home and say you did something you’ve never done before,” he said.

Asked whether he’d tried any of the dishes, Mr. Gray said he’d given the tart lingonberry juice a shot.

“It was very tasty,” the mayor said.



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