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Hilltown Charter School students study food and faith

  • Hilltown Coop 7th and 8th graders listen to a presentation, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentations were delivered by each student and focused on topics of food and faith. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Hilltown Coop 7th and 8th graders listen to a presentation, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentations were delivered by each student and focused on topics of food and faith.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hilltown Coop student Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, left, follows along with a presentation by Cassidy Armstrong of Florence,14, at River Valley Market in Northampton, Wednesday. The presentations were for a world religions class and focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Hilltown Coop student Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, left, follows along with a presentation by Cassidy Armstrong of Florence,14, at River Valley Market in Northampton, Wednesday. The presentations were for a world religions class and focused on topics of food and faith.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hilltown Coop student Noah Erooke-Willbanks of Easthampton, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentation focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Hilltown Coop student Noah Erooke-Willbanks of Easthampton, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentation focused on topics of food and faith.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hilltown Coop student Sunny Eiseman of Cummington, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. Peers Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, 14, left, Zach Matuson of Florence, 14, and Inde Francis of Florence, 12, follow along. The presentations focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Hilltown Coop student Sunny Eiseman of Cummington, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. Peers Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, 14, left, Zach Matuson of Florence, 14, and Inde Francis of Florence, 12, follow along. The presentations focused on topics of food and faith.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hilltown Coop 7th and 8th graders listen to a presentation, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentations were delivered by each student and focused on topics of food and faith. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Hilltown Coop student Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, left, follows along with a presentation by Cassidy Armstrong of Florence,14, at River Valley Market in Northampton, Wednesday. The presentations were for a world religions class and focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Hilltown Coop student Noah Erooke-Willbanks of Easthampton, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. The presentation focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Hilltown Coop student Sunny Eiseman of Cummington, 13, delivers a presentation for a world religions class, Wednesday, at River Valley Market in Northampton. Peers Michael DeBenedetto-Plummer of Easthampton, 14, left, Zach Matuson of Florence, 14, and Inde Francis of Florence, 12, follow along. The presentations focused on topics of food and faith.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

Since October, 7th and 8th graders from the school have been hard at work putting together a cookbook entitled “The Things That Feed Us: Recipes and stories of food and faith from the Pioneer Valley.”

The 71-page spiral-bound book contains recipes for food like Mango lassi potato latkes, Tibetan momos, Christmas rye bread, Persian herbed celery chicken, Hindu kheer and Italian sprinkle cookies.

The students conducted interviews with a variety of people with an eye towards understanding their religious traditions.

Personal stories accompany every recipe in the book.

On Wednesday, Hilltown students performed readings from the new cookbook at three food-rich locations in the area: River Valley Market in Northampton, Cup and Top Caf e in Florence and Bread Euphoria in Haydenville.

At the River Valley Market presentation, students sat around a long table in the café space waiting their turn to read as shoppers and employees of the market listened in.

Melia Summers, 13, of Florence and Amherst, read her piece entitled “North is for Buffalo.” Summers had interviewed her uncle who told her some of the rituals involved in Native American spirituality including “Inipi” (sweat lodge) ceremonies and “chanupa” (pipe) ceremonies as well as the importance of the four directions when blessing and serving food.

Having interviewed a family with both Jewish and Christian members, Cassidy Armstrong’s story, “Connections,” focused on the blending of religious traditions within families. Armstrong used the backdrop of a Passover Seder to highlight the significance of that eggs have in different religions and cultures.

“The school contacted us to talk about having the students do this and we thought that it was a great idea,” River Valley Marketing Assistant Gayle Sullivan said.

Hilltown 7th- and 8th-grade teacher Beth Adel said the project aimed to build an understanding of world religions and to help students “gain experience with interviews, taking notes, and doing presentations while working on writing skills as well.”

The idea for the cookbook evolved as the project progressed. “As the students were performing their interviews, they began to discover what a central role food played in traditions and ritual,” Adel said. “We ended up doing the cookbook and working in very close collaboration with the art teacher who helped with graphics and the technology teacher who helped with layout.”

After reading his piece “Taking Refuge in Buddhist India,” based on an interview with Nancy Braxton of Williamsburg, Inde Francis, 12 of Florence, offered his thoughts on the class.

“I never put much thought into religion before, but I like studying about all of the different religions of the world,” Francis said. “For me I think if I was going to be a religious person, I would be Pagan or Buddhist because it seems like those really talk about what life is and what is important,” he added.

Susan Becker-Poole of Greenfield said she was surprised when she entered the store.

“What a neat idea and what a great place to do this,” she said as she listened to stories.

Parent volunteer Lee Nerney said the students had worked very hard on the project that had started in October.

“I think this is a wonderful idea and I can see that the kids really enjoyed doing this,” Nerney.

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