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  • Our food is freshly prepared daily by Natural Gourmet Institute alumnus and vegan chef, Jonah Chasin, and his assistant, Rosa Perez, a former EHS parent. They have worked together in our kitchen for over a decade. 
  • All of the food served to our students and faculty is vegan.
  • Our way of shopping, cooking, and composting makes our school a strong example of a strong steward of our planet.
  • As often as possible, our ingredients are organic and locally sourced. 
  • Chef Jonah collaborates with our teachers to teach nutrition education and cooking classes. 

From our founding, EHS has seen the pursuit of food justice as central to our work in Spanish Harlem. The obesity epidemic, diabetes, and other attendant ills of poor diet have long haunted this part of the city, and with Covid, this disparity has been recently marked by a disproportionate number of untimely deaths. For years we at EHS have seen good food as a cornerstone of health and a necessity for educational growth. Toward that end, for nearly three decades we have provided plant-based meals prepared on site for our students, and for over a decade we have made sure that our food is organic, and whenever possible, seasonal, and locally sourced.

In East Harlem, the childhood obesity rate is 26%, and the adult obesity rate is 31%.  Children who are obese are more likely to remain obese as adults. Obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, hyperuricemia and gout, osteoarthritis, cancer - and now death from Covid-19.  The EHS food program, combined with our daily fitness program, has been a local model for combating these health issues that plague the poor on an individual level and that cost the nation over $150 billion in health care and lost productivity.

The impact of food insecurity and nutritional disparities strongly contribute to the achievement gap between wealthy students and low-income students. But our commitment at EHS to the physical health of our students has allowed them to have academic success and create healthy patterns that will allow them the possibility of long  lives of joy, productivity, and service. Not incidentally, over our beautiful meals - for students and adults -  social bonds are deepened, palates broadened, and informal intellectual exploration is launched, sometimes with as much impact and reach as the classroom. 

In 2019, New York State’s Child Nutrition Program, which had provided an annual grant of  $100,0000 for our food program, insisted that, going forward, we had to purchase the cheapest option for each food product we purchased. Bending to this policy would have virtually eliminated the local or organic option for fruits and vegetables - and it would have devastated our plant-based approach to individual and community health.  Instead of bowing to bloodless bureaucracy, EHS chose to walk away from funding that would have corrupted our long struggle for educational and food justice. So we emerged with our integrity intact, but with a debilitating $100,000 deficit in our food budget. 

Chef Jonah's Vegan Cinnamon Buns 

PREP TIME 1 hour 30 minutes

COOK TIME 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME1 hour 55 minutes

Servings 10 rolls


  • 3 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 packet instant yeast (or use rapid-rise yeast // 1 packet yields ~ 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp vegan butter* (melted)
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar*
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter (melted)


  • DOUGH: In a large sauce pan (or in a bowl in the microwave at 30-second increments), heat the almond milk and vegan butter until warm and melted, never reaching boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees F (43 C) or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast.

  • Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes. Then add 1 Tbsp sugar and the salt and stir.

  • Next add in flour 1/2 cup (68 g) at a time, stirring as you go (you may not add it all). The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball (be careful not to overmix). Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with avocado or olive oil, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. 

  • FILLING: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle (the thickness of the dough should be about 1/4-inch). Brush with melted vegan butter and top with sugar and desired amount of cinnamon.

  • Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. Then with a serrated knife or a string of floss, cut the dough into 1.5 – 2 inch sections and position in a well-buttered 8×8-inch square or comparable sized round pan. If preparing the cinnamon rolls the night before, stop here, cover the pan, and refrigerate overnight, then proceed with the next step in the morning.

  • TOPPING: Brush with vegan butter (melted) and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).

  • Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately.

  • Optional: Frost with a simple mixture of 1 cup (112 g) organic powdered sugar and 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) almond milk.

  • Best when fresh, though they will keep covered at room temperature for ~2-3 days.