Sharing Culture with Cuisine

Parson Hills Elementary School


There’s a lot of diversity in Arkansas, and EAST thrives on that diversity. The more unique backgrounds involved with EAST, the better our students can find ways to serve their entire community. And as we’ve learned in the past couple of decades, representation of everyone’s culture is incredibly important.

EAST at Parson Hills Elementary School took that need to heart with the creation of their new show Cultural Cuisine. The students involved with the show are Melanie Gonzalez, Patricia Tartios, Ruby Menendez, and Conner Garcia. In this show, students team up with UAMS chefs and the Springdale School District food service to share meals rooted deeply in different cultures.

“What we did for our first episode was cook some traditional Marshallese soup and talked a bit about the Marshall Islands,” said Patricia, the lead host on Cultural Cuisine.

“We created something that showed people healthy and traditional food options while also demonstrating how to cook,” said Melanie, one of the show’s producers.

Melanie also shared what people can expect from the show in the future, as a considerable minority population at Parson Hills Elementary School inspires the project to continue.

“We are currently focusing on the next episodes, which will center around Mexican and Salvadorian food,” Melanie said. “I think about half of our school is Hispanic, so we’re aiming for that next.”

The idea for the project came into existence when EAST at Parson Hills Elementary facilitator Wade Ward told his students that food isn’t just something that can be eaten but can also be used to store memories and stories.

“We want people to be proud of who they are and where they come from,” said Ruby, who works as a camera operator for the project. “Food is a big part of who we are, and we think it’s important to share that with everyone.”

From a facilitator’s point of view, Wade facilitated at the middle school and junior high level before moving to Parson Hills three years ago and is amazed at how four elementary students are able to work together on a large-scale project using thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

“I love their ability to work together, take charge of things and clean up after themselves,” Wade said. “We are shooting videos with three cameras and the ATEM switcher, and when I tell them to put it all up, they can handle it. I think that’s pretty cool. I don’t know if every 11-year-old would be able to handle that.”