Peddie’s International Food Fair showcased food from Hong Kong, China, France, Spain, the Philippines, Nigeria, Jamaica, South Korea, India (x2), Canada and the Latin Club. Each table stood proudly by its flag with trays of specialty foods, including garlic bread by the Latin Club, pork ribs at the Chinese table, and crêpes at the French table.
The weekend before (and even the day of) the January 14 food fair, student representatives for each country or heritage worked to prepare meals with faculty members and relatives. As soon as the dining hall doors opened at 6:00pm, a crowd of hungry students eagerly flooded the tables. Each student was handed a roll of five tickets to exchange at five tables of their choice. Despite the order maintained by this system, much of the food at each table disappeared within the first fifteen minutes. After 6:30pm, the rare leftovers were available without tickets for anyone coming back for seconds or thirds.
The International Food Fair, however, goes beyond just a single night of good food. It celebrates the cultural and ethnic diversity present at Peddie and offers an opportunity for members of the community to share their heritage with the whole school. The Peddie student body is comprised of 19% international students from 34 different countries, as well as domestic students from a wide range of backgrounds. “The food fair not only allows students to exhibit their own cultures but also fosters a sense of cultural appreciation,” said Jessica Cheng ’20. This emphasis on respect for and knowledge of distinct cultures is incredibly important in creating Peddie’s welcoming community. “I especially enjoyed seeing all the students, faculty, and children so willing to try something new,” said Sarah Park ’19, echoing Cheng’s sentiments.
Over time, Peddie’s growing proportion of international students has become a prominent component of the student body. “When I first started in 2003, the main international kids were from Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan…As the international pool is expanding…we need to [bring] more awareness to the kids on our campus,” said Richard Maley, a history teacher and key organizer of this year’s food fair. It is not difficult to notice the presence of international students on campus. Student diversity manifests itself in the form of culture clubs, flags in dorm rooms, and casual conversations in different languages. “[International students] bring another point of view…Especially sitting in class…you can teach the Vietnam War, and Vietnamese students in your class can say, ‘This is what I learned in middle school.’ They bring so many more different perspectives of the world that domestic students don’t get,” noted Maley.
The annual International Food Fair started many years ago, and when asked about its future, Maley said, “The last two springs we’ve had a Parade of Flags at chapel…We’re thinking of tying all this together…to have more of a day about this…have more of a set international program.” In fact, there is talk about a possible second International Food Fair in the spring. In the meantime, students who enjoyed the dishes of their classmates can thank Allison Schaefer, Mr. Maley, Peddie Food Service and the many faculty members, students, and family members involved in the food organization and preparation.