Abeona House

Chef Hannah’s Blog – July: Family Food Traditions

Everything is well on the food program front. We’ve been trying new sides – kale chips! cucumber salad! – and enjoying our old favorites, too. This month, though, I thought I’d take a break from sharing about the food itself to discuss another favorite topic at Abeona House: community building.

Food brings people together. It allows us to learn about each other, to share our preferences, our traditions, and our passions. I’ve learned that Akira in the Fish Cove loves tofu and eats it at home with his family. In the Garden room, Evelyn will always ask for seconds on beans and Nicholas informed me that his dad taught him to identify sweet potatoes. I also have the privilege of learning about our broader community through food, when folks working at First Grace stop through the kitchen. Ms. Stephanie tells me about how her mom could feed their big family delicious Southern food on a budget, and Jacinto (father to Sebastian in the Beehive) offered a yummy taste of his mom’s bread from Mexico.

And food gives us time and space to relax with one another. I love the conversations we have over mealtimes at Abeona, even when they are not about the meal we are eating. The time gives us an opportunity to reflect on our day and share new ideas. Earlier this week, Miss Caitlin invited me to join the Garden for a lunch discussion on feminism. Rock on, preschool!

What are your family’s food traditions? What do you discuss over the dinner table?

Chef Hannah’s Blog

The Abeona House food program was instituted using the farm-to-table model, incorporating local, fresh, and organic foods into the meal plan wherever possible.  Following in these footsteps—and excited to see how we can expand our vision—the Abeona House community will take on a food program inspired by the movement for Food Justice.  So, for my first blog post (!!!), I’ll introduce this idea.

Building a food program around Food Justice means that we see the benefits of eating healthy, organic, good-for-the-earth meals to the same degree that we value the people involved in every stage of producing our food. It means understanding our food as part of a massive system of production that often hurts marginalized communities, but has the potential to benefit all people and landscapes. It is a movement built by migrant workers underpaid, overworked, and exposed to chemicals in farming fields; it is a movement built by Black and brown communities surviving in spite of neighborhoods lacking basic grocery stores; it is a movement built by guerilla gardeners.

How will Abeona House lift up this movement?

  1. Through food buying. We won’t be able to replace everything we purchase with foods that we believe are humanely raised and sustainable. Because our current food system is not built around justice, it is too expensive. What we can do is replace specific foods (i.e. food that has been historically produced under poor conditions, food that is particularly high in chemicals when not raised organically) and use those as points of learning for our community. We can also seek out local growers we want to support and use the produce grown in our very own garden.
  2. Through education. Making a dent on our food system will take big work and garnering the strength of many communities. Our work is to grow a new crop of youngsters who like their meals and appreciate how they got to them.

In the coming weeks, look out for more blogposts on what we’ve been eating and learning.

And finally… some people enjoy visuals. Here’s the drawing I made to get this all sorted out in my head:

Food Justice Map

Build Your Own Pizza Day

This Friday is our very first build your own pizza day! I will be going into each classroom and helping the teachers and students top English muffins with sauce, cheese, and different toppings. This is part of our bigger goal to incorporate food, cooking, meals, and nutrition more into the curriculum at Abeona. Not to mention it will be a great fine motor activity and give students a chance to voice their opinions and express some autonomy. We are all so excited!  Be sure to ask your child about their special pizzas!

School Garden

We are very excited this week to be finally putting in our new school garden! Working with professional gardener Susie Wrenn, whose work you can see at Atchafalaya Restaurant (among others), we hope to have a beautiful and diverse garden. Our vision is to have vegetables, flowers, and even fruit trees that our students can explore and learn from. Our harvest can even add teachable moments during lunch time, by bringing to light the cycle of our food from the ground to the plate.

Granola: It’s for Everyone!

One of my favorite breakfasts to make is granola. If you haven’t tried it at home, it’s super easy and versatile. I actually don’t even measure anything except the oats when I make our Abeona House granola. Add your favorite 100% juice, some molasses and brown sugar, salt, and olive oil until your oats clump together but still remain a bit crumbly. This can be a fun sensory experience to do with your kiddos. We know Abeona kids love sensory stuff! Next add whatever spices and extras sound good: pumpkin spice, cinnamon, coconut, nuts (never at Abeona, but maybe at home) and seeds, and dried fruit. Lay out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for about an hour, mixing up every 15 or so minutes until golden brown and crunchy.

The kids eat it right up with plain yogurt!

Eggciting Personal Victory

We eat a lot of eggs at Abeona House, it’s no joke. They’re full of protein, easy on a budget, and kids love them (unless you have an egg allergy, then you’ll probably have toast and sunbutter that day). To feed around fifty 1-4 year olds takes 39 eggs according to the USDA. That takes some time! So this week, I just want everyone out there to know I mastered a one-handed egg break flawlessly, and when my other hand was looking for something to do, I mastered two eggs at once! No big whoop.

 If you’re looking for a new challenge in the kitchen and want to impress your kids and friends by looking super cool, give it a try (and make sure you check for shells the first few times).

National Cheese Pizza Day

Friday September 5th was National Cheese Pizza Day! In accidental celebration, we feasted on delicious cheese pizza on our homemade sourdough crust. The dough is started from a little chunk saved from the last batch, and takes 3 days to finish. The original sourdough was made in France many years ago using rotting fruits and vegetables to ferment a mixture of flour and water. It’s a pretty amazing process when I think about it, and by far our favorite lunch at Abeona House.

Thank-You Bites

Sometimes a picky eater can be a daunting task for caregivers. One day, feeling a little defeated, I cried to Julie, “If only we could give an M&M reward when they try everything on their plate!” Rewards and incentives subsequently became one of our topics of conversation during Professional Development. We discussed how rewards for desired behaviors can create a negative relationship with the child and food. Instead of a reward, we want to encourage “thank-you bites,”  where we show an appreciation for the process and care put into our food.  Good eating habits are something that parents and caregivers should encourage but never force.

Happy Labor Day!

Chef David has been enjoying a nice vacation back home with his family. He worked really hard to prepare everything in advance, and we have had a great week of tasty, nutritious food even though he isn’t here.

And now it’s time for everyone to take a little vacation. Abeona House will be closed Monday, September 1, for Labor Day. Let’s celebrate all the hard work everyone does with a relaxing day. I’m sure the kids are up for letting their parents sleep in and do nothing all day…

Welcome Back!

Welcome back, parents and students! To our new families, we are so excited to get to know you and grow with you. While you were away, teachers spent the week in professional development, sprucing up the school and getting curriculum in order. The kitchen is all ready too, serving up another year of delicious, fun, and healthy yummies.