Local students assist Maynard’s Open Table

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By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator

– Chef Jessica Bengtson and students Lyric Reid, Natalie Elias and Jewell Croushore package hot meals for Open Table in Maynard.
Chef Jessica Bengtson and students Lyric Reid, Natalie Elias and Jewell Croushore package hot meals for Open Table in Maynard.

MARLBOROUGH – For many people, hearing a reference to “Open Table” conjures up familiarity with an app used for making dinner reservations or reading restaurant reviews prior to a night out. For those in the Maynard area who are experiencing food insecurity, however, Open Table means potential relief from hunger, at least temporarily.

Recently, Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School Culinary Arts students stepped up to help Open Table in that mission.

Since 1989, this non-profit has relied on only one paid employee and an army of volunteers that has at times numbered as large as 600 to provide healthy food to local residents in need.

Open Table offers community suppers in Concord and Maynard. They also maintain a food pantry at their 33 Main St. site in Maynard. Besides personal donations, local grocery stores donate food items each week to support these efforts. In the growing seasons, local farms provide fresh fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis as well.

 

Kitchen out of commission during renovation

Robert Irvine, a senior in Assabet’s Culinary Arts program, prepares the pasta and sauce for a meal for the Open Table non-profit kitchen.
Robert Irvine, a senior in Assabet’s Culinary Arts program, prepares the pasta and sauce for a meal for the Open Table non-profit kitchen.

Recently, Open Table received a grant to assist with a kitchen renovation. But that meant they would not have the ability to prepare hot meals for a few weeks.

The Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School Culinary Arts program was more than happy to lend a helping hand for three weeks, preparing a series of hot meals and packing them in to-go containers. Menus ranged from American chop suey or baked macaroni and cheese with sausage to a full Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner.

“They would drop off the ingredients and the containers they wanted us to use,” explained Chef Margo Wilson, the Culinary Arts Lead Teacher, of her program’s collaboration with Open Table. “We were then free to create the meals, and they would come back and pick them up.”

 

Making a difference

For Benjamin Gaston, a junior from Shrewsbury, this was an opportunity to make a difference.

“It felt good to be doing something to help people,” he said. “I think it really hit home how we were affecting lives, and I hope to do more of that in the future.”

Gaston plans to go on to college. His field of study is undecided as of yet, but he said he appreciates that he will always have the cooking skills he is learning at Assabet.

Ava Matkins, another Shrewsbury junior, recalled a memory from a moment when she helped a woman carry meals out to her car.

“She was talking about how much it helped her to get these prepared meals,” Matkins said. “When she saw how much food there was, including baked goods, the look on her face made the moment so special for me.”

As a lifelong Girl Scout, Matkins is no stranger to doing good deeds, including volunteering at a soup kitchen.

“Helping the less fortunate makes people understand to be more grateful for what we have,” she said.

Her goal is to go to college and double major in business and culinary arts, focusing on baking.

 

Community service provides educational opportunity

Freshmen Luana De Oliveira Hipolito and Ashley Gonzalez get ready to assemble Chicken and Spanish rice for Open Table.
Freshmen Luana De Oliveira Hipolito and Ashley Gonzalez get ready to assemble Chicken and Spanish rice for Open Table.

From the satisfaction of helping a local non-profit to the unique educational opportunity posed by this challenge, Wilson expressed her gratitude and excitement over this collaboration with Open Table.

“Since we don’t regularly prepare and plate full hot meals for to-go containers, this was a good experience for the kids,” she said. “We went through a kitchen renovation ourselves, so we were happy to be able to help them out. Watching the kids realize how nice it is to work with a local community organization like that made me happy, too.”

 

 

Hudson partners with Open Table to launch pilot of mobile pantry service program (communityadvocate.com)