With a reputation for unwavering commitment to service, it should come as no surprise that The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is actively involved in supporting youth and providing volunteer services in low-income communities around the country. As part of their “Succeed Through Service” program, the hotel chain has been instrumental in educating students about the importance of good nutrition in partner schools of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital.
With “Succeed Through Service,” The Ritz-Carlton creates and delivers hospitality themed enrichment programs. The goals of the initiative are to engage, contribute and inspire. The curriculum, which sometimes brings students into the hotels and also takes employees into classrooms, includes lessons that teach social skills and dining etiquette, safe food handling skills, cooking demonstrations, healthy food preparation, and public speaking and presentation skills.
The staff of The Ritz-Carlton Corporate Office in Chevy Chase, Md., and The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., have been volunteering and providing leadership as a partner of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital for the past three years.
“This is a significant partnership,” said Tobeka G. Green, chief executive officer of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital. “The Ritz-Carlton staff engages with the students and parents, teaching critical life skills that are important to the overall development of our families and the community. They listen to where they can be supportive and they deliver needed resources. That’s just invaluable.”
Many of the projects are geared toward teaching life skills that will help the students achieve in school, graduate and go on to bright futures. Last year, two dozen students traveled to the company’s headquarters in Maryland and The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown to experience firsthand the kinds of jobs available in the hospitality industry. But there have also been those that focus specifically on the importance of nutrition. Last Spring, staff and volunteers from the corporate office and hotel, and students from Hart Middle School in Washington, D.C., went to Ferebee-Hope Elementary School to refurbish the school’s garden. Planting a garden and having fresh fruits and vegetables is a starting point on the path to good nutrition. The company supplied the gardening tools, plants and seeds. Harvesting the fruits and vegetables – strawberries, bell peppers, cabbage, cucumbers and onions – took place in the fall.
On two separate occasions, the students at Hart were treated to a food preparation demonstration by the executive chef from The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown and the vice president of culinary for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The produce came from the Ferebee-Hope garden. The chef showed students how to handle raw foods, stressed the importance of healthy eating based on the new “food plate” guidelines and demonstrated how to prepare healthy dishes.
“Students are highly engaged when working with our chefs,” said Sue Stephenson, vice president of Community Footprints, The Ritz-Carlton’s social responsibility program, and a recent addition to the board of directors of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital. “You can see the light bulbs go on with the students when they learn new facts about nutrition. The sessions are fun and they are helping students learn to make good food choices.”
Said Green, “Teaching our students healthy eating habits and teaching them to make informed decisions is setting them up for success.”