Edmonton’s Boyle Street Community Services dishes up hundreds of turkey dinners

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton’s Boyle Street Community Services started talking in the summer about ways to safely serve a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

To meet safety restrictions, there was no sit-down meal served buffet style. Instead, the meal was packaged in individual containers and given to people outside.

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“We are doing more of a takeaway meal this year, so we are having all the meal in a to-go container in a bag,” said Sarah Dowling of Boyle Street Community Services.

“We can take it outside where we are in the fresh air and be able to hand it to the folks who are coming for the meal.”

About 400 people devoured 60 turkeys, 17 cases of potatoes and 100 litres of gravy.

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Every year, NAIT’s culinary program volunteers make the food. To get the go-ahead this year, they had to present a plan with safety measures and get it approved by NAIT.

This was the first time since March that Boyle Street has been able to feed hundreds of people at one time.

Dowling said meeting in public spaces helps to “battle off” isolation.

“They are extremely restricted… which is extremely difficult for people,” she said.

The pandemic has seen many similar kitchens across Edmonton closed, making NAIT the only location where the meals can be safely prepared.

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During meal prep, everyone wore masks and remained socially distant, and 40 students and staff members worked in shifts over three days to get the meal cooked.

“It’s a very important day for us, and we felt if we didn’t do this event, it wouldn’t happen,” said Paul Campbell, the chair of NAIT’s culinary staff department.

Ken Hamilton, who was first in line, said going for dinner every year is a “tradition.” Hamilton said he was worried this year it would be cancelled because of the pandemic.

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“Everything else has just been closed or limited capacity, and it’s very hard to find a decent, hot meal.”

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