WALLINGFORD — Culinary students at Lyman Hall High School are working on a project to distribute groceries to restaurant workers who have lost tips, wages or their jobs entirely during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to give back to the community that suffered pretty hard this whole time. Also we’re part of that community as well, so we wanted to give back to people who are in the same boat as us,” Senior Becca Milewski said. She presented the program to the Board of Education during its Oct. 26 meeting.
The first step is writing letters, expected to go out this week, to every restaurant in town asking if they have employees who could benefit from the assistance. From there, students will collect food and prepare recipe ideas that will be included in the grocery bags.
Students are also writing letters to farms and grocery stores, seeking donations of food to augment a $2,000 gift from the class of 2020. The work is being led by students in the culinary program and the Family Careers and Community Leaders of America club, which is largely composed of culinary students.
Milewski said her classmates decided early on that they wanted to decide on the food items and include specific recipes.
“You don't just want to give someone random food that they won't know what to do with,” she said.
Culinary Instructor Sharon Drossopoulos said many of her students already want to continue into the food service industry. She hopes to see the students help at least 50 workers once the program is fully up and running.
“It really makes them feel fulfilled and it's important to teach the students at an early age … that they understand what it is to be a part of a community,” she said.
Her students also recently acquired donations of pumpkins from local farms and decorated them as table centerpieces. Once complete, they gave them to Masonicare for the facility’s dining room.
Culinary students are also excited to once again serve their classroom creations as finished dishes for their teachers’ lunches through the student-run restaurant, The Cook’s Table. When the school year began in the fall, culinary staff and students were told that it would likely be impossible for the restaurant to reopen this year, however students created a video presentation to show administrators the safety measures they would implement. The Wallingford Health Department also inspected the site and said that so long as students wear masks and practice social distancing, the operation can safely open.
“Being able to see the work that you’ve done presented in a professional manner… that's what makes the program special, that the kids get to see the immediate feedback on their hard work. It really is the heartbeat of our program,” Drossopoulos said.