The busiest time of year at the Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest is the week before Thanksgiving as students, faculty and staff come together for Turkeypalooza.
Turkeypalooza, now in its 8th year, is a week-long event in which more than 150 volunteers cook locally-sourced Thanksgiving dinners for food-insecure Triad-area residents. During Turkeypalooza, more than 400 made from scratch meals are prepared and delivered to families in need of a Thanksgiving dinner.
A Volunteer Effort
Turkeypalooza is key in bringing new faces to Campus Kitchen.
“Normally we just get student volunteers, but during Turkeypalooza we get people from all across campus,” said senior Blair Bryce, Campus Kitchen’s public relations chair. “I think that Turkeypalooza is a good way for people to be introduced to Campus Kitchen who haven’t done it before.”
Alex Fowler, a sophomore from Dobson, N.C., decided to get involved with Turkeypalooza and Campus Kitchen for the first time after stopping by an information table in front of the south campus dining hall. As a first-time volunteer, Fowler was most impressed by how Turkeypalooza captured the holiday spirit.
“It’s good that Campus Kitchen is keeping the true meaning of Thanksgiving alive,” Fowler said. “I wanted to volunteer because it means a lot to me that families are going to get a great Thanksgiving meal.”
After Turkeypalooza, Shelley Sizemore, the assistant director of campus life and service, looks forward to integrating first-time volunteers into the Campus Kitchen family.
“When a student becomes involved with Campus Kitchen as a volunteer, we quickly let them know other ways that they can serve the organization in the long term,” Sizemore said. “I think that many Wake Forest students are looking for an opportunity to learn skills that will be useful throughout their lives. Campus Kitchen gives them the opportunity to do that while also affecting change in an issue that is really pressing in the community.”
While Turkeypalooza is not a new event, this year stood apart because it was the first time that all of the meals were entirely made from scratch. This was due in part to a new partnership with Faith Health NC, a charity that provides meals to low-income individuals with chronic illnesses who have recently been released from the hospital. Since many of these clients require individualized meals, the food prepared during Turkeypalooza aims to be more health-conscious.
“Faith Health is certainly indicative of the spirit of Turkeypalooza,” said Sizemore. “It’s similar to the tradition in a neighborhood when people bring dishes if you are sick. We hope that food is a resource in their healing journey.”
Bryce emphasized the benefits that come from making meals from scratch.
“In the last five years, we’ve been transitioning from meals that are almost entirely pre-prepared to fresh, local foods,” Bryce said. “This not only reduces our carbon footprint since we aren’t shipping food from far away, but also helps us reap the benefits from fresh food. If we can get fresh or frozen green beans rather than canned ones, that makes a positive difference in the nutrition.”
Besides offering nourishment, homemade food more often than not carries emotional attachments, particularly around the holidays.
“For me, comfort food around Thanksgiving is really important because it makes me feel thankful and secure,” Sizemore said. “We hope to be able to offer that same feeling of comfort to our clients and the partners.”