Pandemic forces FDLTCC to bundle Thanksgiving feast
College staff distributes makings of Thanksgiving meals for students and veterans with everything they need “down to the pumpkin pie and Reddi-wip,” Ariel Johnson said.
For 26 years, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has held a “Giving Thanks Feast” near Thanksgiving on its campus.
Typically, the school feeds more than 300 at the annual event, according to FDLTCC director of housing Jesse Stirewalt.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented college officials from holding an in-person event for a 27th straight year, but it didn’t stop the school from ensuring students in the area had a good Thanksgiving dinner.
FDLTCC staff spent much of the day Friday, Nov. 20, distributing Thanksgiving bundles prepared by B&B Market in Cloquet to students and veterans in need this fall. More than 70 people signed up to receive the meals that will feed four to five people, according to Ariel Johnson, student activities director, meaning the bundles could serve nearly as many as the annual Giving Thanks Feast.
Students haven’t been on campus this semester, but Johnson said officials still wanted to keep the tradition alive.
“We just wanted to do something to kind of make things seem more natural — we did have funding available and so we decided to put together these Thanksgiving bundles,” she said. “B&B was great, they were able to take our budget and put together these boxed meals. It’s everything down to the pumpkin pie and Reddi-wip.”
B&B Market owner John Lind said he was happy to help put together the meals for the college — which included a turkey, cranberries, vegetable stuffing and coleslaw — when the call came.
“Jesse over at the college called and they wanted to help out the students,” Lind said. “So we got together and pretty much figured out a full turkey Thanksgiving dinner.”
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At the beginning of the pandemic, Lind started the “Food Train” at B&B Market to help raise money to feed people in need. Since March, the program has raised nearly $140,000 and recently partnered with the United Way to distribute more than 900 boxes of food to those struggling with food insecurity.
FDLTCC President Stephanie Hammitt said there is a problem with food insecurity, particularly with students not on campus this year. The school received a $5,700 grant from the American Indian College Fund to help provide for students during this time.
“We just wanted to find a way to get it spent in a good way to help students,” she said. “We missed the students, so it's nice to be able to do something good and have them come here and actually see folks, even though they're not getting out of their cars or anything, and we only wish we could have a wider outreach as some of our students are out-of-state.”