There were two meals Monday. One at 11:30am and another at 1:30pm
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshire Food Project held an in-person Thanksgiving dinner meal for the first time since 2019.
"It's great to have people back in here dining. This is what the program originally started as in 1987," Berkshire Food Project Executive Director Mark Rondeau said Monday, Nov 21, at the first seating. "It started to fight hunger but also social isolation."
The Berkshire Food Project has not held an in-person Thanksgiving meal since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Rondeau said the meal is more than sustenance but a chance to break bread together.
"You know, the great genius of this program is it brings people together of different classes and different backgrounds, and I'm sure we're going to have people just coming down and sitting with other people," he said. "It is community members, and it is people of different income levels."
Rondeau was appointed as Executive Director in 2021 so this is truly his first meal in charge. But the broad president of the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry is certainly familiar with food insecurity issues as well as the importance of the meal.
"It's a small town so I have people I have known why my whole life who come through the line," he said.
Berkshire Food Project held two sit-down meals Monday, one at 11:30 am and another at 1:30 pm.
A queue had started before well before 11:30 outside of the First Congregational Church as volunteers frantically prepared 200 pounds of turkey.
Rondeau said, clearly, people were happy to eat together once again.
"Just looking on Facebook we have tons of people wanting to volunteer and people so happy to be our guests," he said.
The menu included turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, rolls, cranberry sauce, and pie. Along with volunteers, Mariah and Justin Forstmann, owners and operators of the Chingón Taco Truck cooked the meal.
"They will be helping us today, and they are very cool people. They are going to help us with our Christmas dinner as well," he said.
Rondeau said looking towards the future, he hopes to continue to move toward normalcy as the city continues to emerge from the pandemic.
"We are going to get back to in person, and we are going to mix it up for a while. We don't have a set schedule if we're going to be a hundred percent from this day forward. But this is a big experiment," he said. "We're really going to get back to our mission of having in-person dining."
northadams.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.