Urban Education Students Show Love through Food at Big Read Event
On Thursday, February 5, 2015 UHD hosted a Big Read event at SEARCH Homeless Services for the families and children of House of Tiny Treasures pre-primary school. Funded by a grant from National Education Association, the event was a celebration centered on the healing power of food as depicted in the novel "A Lesson before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines.
Participants were asked to bring a recipe card to the event. Recipes were collected for dishes including Oreo truffles, fried plantains and pork chops, "pastelitos de carne" (a Cuban meat-filled pastry), and more. When the families arrived at SEARCH, they deposited their recipe cards into a basket and seated themselves and, holding children on their laps, gathered to watch UHD students from the Urban Education program in the College of Public Service perform a Readers Theater script.
The script, created by Dr. Leigh Van Horn, Interim Dean of the College of Public Service, included scenes from the book in which characters came together around their experiences with food. The narrator opened with this excerpt from the book:
"They say that food is one of our basic needs. Yes, we need food to survive, but what I'm here tonight to say is that we actually need food for many more reasons. Food brings us together…making food, passing food around the table, sharing food, eating food, feeding our babies or our elders, all of this gives us something to do while we're with someone else, something to do while we sit and talk to one another…We need food to give us strength, to hold us up, to help us celebrate a special moment, to show someone that we love them…Food is love isn't it?"
Families laughed and cried along with the readers. When the applause had quieted, the participants reflected on the healing power of food and how food and love are connected, a natural transition to the next part of the evening in which they shared a meal together. The food prepared and served by Chris Conti and the Aramark crew was representative of the cuisine described in the novel- fried chicken, green beans, yams, butter rolls, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet tea, and pecan pie. Many of the family members remarked enthusiastically about the food, saying it was some of the best chicken they had ever tasted.
While everyone ate, they talked together and the students wrote or recorded the stories that families told about special moments in their lives that were connected to food and eating. They plan to combine the recipes and stories into a memento for each family and student in attendance.