Could this be translated as both 'They try the food' and 'They try to eat it'?
Only 'They try the food' because 'eten' is the noun here. 'They try to eat it' would be 'zij proberen het te eten' ('eten' becomes the verb and 'het' becomes 'it').
Yes. In that sentence Dutch "te + infinitive" = English "to + infinitive".
Different meaning. Meal and food are different, although meals are indeed made of up food. :)
Has proberen a link with the Spanish probar ?