Sister Mary Acerbi works her magic in a portable classroom reconfigured as a combination kitchen and dressing room. The children who attend the Smithson-Craighead Academy, a charter school for extreme at-risk children, know that after school Sister Mary will always have something good to eat. And they also know if they show up for school without the proper uniform (polo shirts and khaki pants) that Sister Mary will have a change of clothes ready. Some of the kids come to school in dirty clothes, knowing that Sister Mary will set them up for success instead of possible derision from their classmates.
But food is where she’s made her biggest mark. She takes donations from the Second Harvest Food Bank and turns them into culinary masterpieces. On Fun Fridays, she’ll open up a window in the portable and hand them out concession style. The kids love that. Her latest inspiration came from the story Stone Soup. You’ll remember that in the story a soldier wanders into a poor village where the residents are hoarding their meager food. He tells them he’ll make a soup out of stones and soon all the villagers are offering a cabbage here, a potato there to make the soup even better.
That sparked inspiration among the kids, who wanted to make their own stone soup. So Sister Mary got out a large soup pot and one by one the kids came with their offerings from home. It was a lesson come alive in literature, nutrition, and the love of a Catholic nun for her tiny charges.
The Smithson Craighead Academy under its parent umbrella, Project Reflect, partners with CRC for everything from backpacks with school supplies to furniture. It is one of our happiest moments to see these children, whose futures were once so in doubt, happy and engaged and ready with all the fixings for a stone soup that makes their lives even more delicious.