It was hard to tell who was more excited—the students, the faculty or
the parents. The time honored tradition of “International Food Day” has always seemed to bring a certain level of electricity as the school gym is transformed into an international café for a day.
The event took place right in the middle of St. Virgil Academy’s Catholic Schools Week (CSW) celebration. The Morris Township-based 2-year-old through Grade 8 school has been serving up delicious culinary delights to its students for years. In fact, the alumni consistently reminisce about the event being one of their favorite St. Virgil memories. It’s an opportunity for the children to reflect on their own heritage, learn about the ethnic backgrounds of their fellow classmates and enjoy some scrumptious food while they’re at it.
Of course, the task of pulling together such an event is not child’s play. However, Carla Gelpke, the International Food Day parent coordinator for the past several years takes it all in stride. “I don’t worry,” she states, “the food always just appears.”
And, appear it does. By lunch time, the school kitchen is filled to the brim with wonderfully smelling casserole dishes. Parents scurry about to decorate, set up, warm the food, serve the food and make sure the children have everything they need. When the hustle and bustle of the lunch hour is over, the parents finally settle in to sample a bit of the cuisine themselves. It’s one of the many great efforts coordinated by the school’s dedicated team of parent volunteers.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” explains school Principal Debbie Duane. “Our families are the heart and soul of this school. I’ve never seen a group rally to accomplish such impressive things on behalf of these children as I have at St. Virgil Academy,” Duane states.
While the parents do the heaving lifting, the children do their part by taking it all in and having fun. The students are allowed to dress in clothes and colors that reflect their heritage. Irish wool sweaters, Scottish kilts, beautiful Asian silk dresses and floral hair decorations can be seen up and down the hallways. Then there’s the food—selections from every country across the globe, including the good old American hotdog! The children get to sample foods from different cultures and then top it all off with some delicious fruit and dessert treats.
“I love food!” squeals one Pre-K student. While another reflects, “I wish we could eat in the gym all the time.” It’s actually surprising to all the adults at the celebration how much food those little mouths can actually consume!
So, as they make their way out of the gym, with full bellies and beaming smiles, the children serve as a living testament as to why St. Virgil Academy is such a wonderful place—who’s not happy at a place where there’s good food?