Northwest High students get a taste of upcoming Costa Rican trip with Taher Food Service!

By Leanne Smith |

BLACKMAN TWP., MI – Jicama slaw, coconut water and fried plantains are not foods typically found in a high school cafeteria.

Yet, at Northwest High School on Thursday, May 1, these things, plus gallo pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice) and roasted sweet potatoes with cumin and chili powder all showed up on students’ lunch trays.

“It’s pretty good,” said sophomore Isaiah Valentine, 16. “I think it’s good to try foods from different cultures.”

Patti Russell, Northwest Community Schools’ food service director, often tries to mix up the menu to get students to try different foods. But this “Central American Fiesta” – which didn’t cost any more than a regular lunch and included free samples – had a specific point.

From March 27 to April 5, 2015 – during spring break – Northwest High students can travel to Costa Rica on a school trip. The lunch was Russell’s way to help teachers Elizabeth Hoffbauer and Tracy Dryer generate awareness and interest.

“Some of the students had asked what they’d be eating there,” said Dryer, an English teacher. “Maybe this will help.”

Junior Jordan Moore, 17, ate gallo pinto with scrambled eggs and pico de gallo on a corn tortilla.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s good to mix it up from the normal stuff.”

Junior Megan Thiel, 17, who’s going on the trip, wasn’t so sure.

“I think I may be eating a lot of soup,” she said.

But that’s not diminishing Thiel’s excitement about the trip.

“It’s my first time flying and my first time out of the country,” she said. “It’s going to be beautiful and tropical and warm.”

In the past, Northwest foreign language classes had taken trips like this, Dryer said. None have been scheduled recently, though, and she and Hoffbauer thought it was time to do it again.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about a different culture,” said Hoffbauer, a social studies teacher.

While in Costa Rica, student will ride horses, try out a zip-line, go kayaking, do a service project at a local school and visit a cloud forest, hot springs and other sites.

The trip is open to all current freshmen, sophomores and juniors and their families, Dryer said. The cost, which goes up as the date of the trip gets closer, is about $2,600 now, which includes all expenses, such as airfare, lodging and meals and activity fees. Payment plans are available.

Currently, six students and two parents have signed up, but Hoffbauer said she’d love to see 15 or 20 people make the trip.

“This is an educational opportunity that transcends school,” she said.

Jicama slaw, fried plantains give Northwest High students taste of upcoming Costa Rican trip |