Wake Forest University’s Benson Center kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving, but the amount of food coming in and out of the ovens and stacked on the counters seemed like enough to feed a whole neighborhood, not just close family and friends gathered for a holiday meal.
The sixth annual Turkeypalooza brought student and faculty volunteers together during the week of November 13 to prepare and deliver more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to local organizations in the Triad area —including The Children’s Home, Prodigals Community and AIDS Care Service.
The groups, divided into cooking shifts, prepared traditional holiday dinners of turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing and pumpkin spice cookies to bring to local agencies.
The human resources department, H.O.P.E. House and the Wake Forest chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, are three campus groups who joined students, faculty and staff in the preparation and delivery of the holiday dinners.
The event is sponsored by Campus Kitchen, an on-campus food-recycling program that focuses on offsetting the area’s food need year-round. Turkeypalooza is part of a University-wide effort to raise awareness of food insecurity during Hunger and Homelessness Week, which includes additional contributions from campus organizations like The Hunger Board, Amnesty International and Habitat for Humanity.
With Winston-Salem ranking as one of the least food secure cities in North Carolina, events like Turkeypalooza are crucial for the community surrounding Wake Forest. Student coordinator senior Bradley Shugoll noted the importance of giving back to the community, especially in the holiday season.
“People think it’s a small city. They don’t think about the food need as being comparable to some larger places around the U.S., but we’re really up there in terms of food necessity,” he said.
In keeping with efforts to support sustainable foods, Turkeypalooza featured high-quality ingredients. Shelley Sizemore, the assistant director of Campus Life for Service, has been focused on incorporating local ingredients and from-scratch cooking since she became Campus Kitchen coordinator four years ago.
“At Campus Kitchen we want to focus not just on supplying any food, but the right food and really good food,” she said. “It’s just a way of putting a little bit of extra effort into the meals and really affording our agencies and the clients they serve an opportunity to experience Thanksgiving even if they’re not able to experience it at home.”
Beyond the meals provided and the families comforted, Turkeypalooza raises awareness about local food insecurity so that individuals and groups will be inspired to find additional ways to support the hungry.
“It’s a big thing if we can get a lot of volunteers out and open their eyes to what’s going on in Winston-Salem,” said Shugoll. “It can be a first step toward real change.”