NAIT staff and students bring Thanksgiving to Boyle Street

Tradition of giving back modified but maintained

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, more than 400 Edmontonians who experience homelessness and poverty enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner this year as NAIT and Boyle Street Community Services found a way to team up for the annual event.

Sunday’s dinner was the first hot meal the non-profit was able to host since March. It was made possible when the polytechnic changed its approach to preparing and serving the meal.

Traditionally, the initiative is led by students in NAIT’s Club Culinaire. This year, however, student clubs are limited to online activities due to COVID-19. In response, Culinary Arts staff, led by department chair Paul Campbell (Cook ’97), volunteered to step in.

“Supporting the Boyle Street Thanksgiving dinner is something our NAIT staff and students have eagerly participated in for a number of years,” says Campbell.

Forty culinary staff and students worked in shifts over three days in the polytechnic’s teaching kitchens to produce

The food was donated by the Edmonton Food Bank except for the potatoes, which the Little Potato Company also supplied for free. On the day of the meal, Campbell and fellow instructors Hong Chew (Culinary Arts ’93), Alan Roote and Ganesh Subramanya put the final touches on the food before handing it off to Boyle Street staff.

Once it was at the organization’s community centre, volunteers packaged up individual take-and-go meals for community members, as the buffet service used in the past would not meet current Alberta Health Services safety guidelines.

Maintaining a tradition of giving back

nait students prepare thanksgiving dinner for boyle street community services

In an interview with Global News, community member Ken Hamilton noted that it's been difficult to find a decent hot meal since the pandemic hit Alberta, making this dinner extra special for the community. Sarah Dowling, ambassador engagement coordinator for Boyle Street Community Services, echoed that sentiment.

"We want to thank NAIT's culinary program for donating their time to prepare our Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “It is because of their generosity that our community members get to enjoy a delicious meal this holiday.”

Campbell is pleased that NAIT staff and students were able to continue with an act of service to the community that goes back more than three decades.

“It was important for us to carry on this tradition, especially during these challenging times,” he says. “We’re honoured to once again oversee the preparations of a hearty, warm meal in the safety of our kitchens for those experiencing homelessness and poverty.”

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