Frank Mentesana is the founding Director of EcoSpaces Education, a program created at Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark, NJ. Frank has over 20 years of experience in foodservice, 10 of which were spent as the owner of Once Upon A Tart in Manhattan. He is also author/photographer of the cookbook, “Once Upon a Tart…Soups, Salads, Muffins and More” (Knopf 2004).
Looking to give balance to his career as a food consultant, stylist, writer, photographer and culinary teacher, he developed and now directs EcoSpaces Education, a comprehensive program that teaches children about the interconnectedness of food, health and the environment. Through the use of learning environments, which include the school dining room (serving healthy, made-from-scratch lunches), a rooftop garden, a controlled environment growing lab, a hands-on teaching kitchen and an Eco Handwork Studio, teachers are able to incorporate curriculum while reinforcing key health and wellness concepts. His proudest achievement by far is his son Matthew in spite of the fact he still doesn’t like lettuce.
Director of Programming
Raised in Oregon moving between a rural logging community and the city of Portland, Catkin became passionate about ecology at a young age. While receiving her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Mills College in Oakland, CA, she developed a keen interest in how communities around the world address environmental issues. This interest led her to study in Greece, Madagascar, and Brazil, and to explore over 20 other countries. Catkin moved to the Bronx, NY in 1995 and discovered the joy of connecting with and inspiring young people to become leaders in protecting and beautifying urban greenspaces. While working for Green Guerrillas, NYC’s oldest community gardening organization, she collaborated with young people, community gardeners and city agencies to complete projects throughout the city with a focus on the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem.
Catkin’s interest in gardening and nutrition drew her to explore health and wellness and in 2006, she become Board Certified in Acupuncture in Chinese Herbology. She is now entering her fifth year at Philip’s Academy Charter School.
Growth Initiatives Manager
Jae M. Zimmermann
Jae is a farmer-turned-educator who believes that healthy food begins with healthy soil and that a healthy future for everyone starts with healthy children now. They have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Wellesley College. After graduating, Jae ran into a tough spot with food access that turned their academic interest in food justice personal. Along their path to a healthier relationship with food, Jae apprenticed in organic and community supported agriculture in Maine where they discovered a love for garden- and kitchen-based education. Jae is thrilled to be serving for a second year in Newark, just down the road from their high school
Khyla wasn’t always a vegetable connoisseur. In fact, she barely ate vegetables when she was a little girl besides cabbage and broccoli with cheese. Entering her freshman year of college, Khyla found a love for eating well and transitioned into a plant based lifestyle. Since becoming a vegan, Khyla has become an advocate for health and wellness and is passionate about helping others become mindful of what they’re consuming. Currently she is serving in Newark New Jersey with Foodcorps as a new service member.
Reid is an experienced educator with a passion for plant based foods and working with children. He spent nearly two years working as a chef in the kitchen of a cafe with a half-vegan menu, where he specialized and prepared plant based alternative dishes. Born and raised in New Jersey, he strives to spread the knowledge and importance of health, nutrition, and food accessibility to his home state. He believes that all children deserve access to healthy food no matter the race, gender, or religion. Reid is extremely excited to be serving his first year for FoodCorps at Philips Academy Charter School of Paterson.
EcoSpaces Culinary Team