QUINCY – While the rest of the city’s residents were finishing their coffee Friday morning, Quincy High School’s culinary students were already halfway through cooking a full meal to feed the area’s homeless.
The few culinary arts students who still attend in-person classes at the high school whipped up a lunch of chicken piccata, Brussels sprouts, salad with homemade vinaigrette, rice pilaf, rolls and blueberry pie for 50 guests of Father Bill’s on Friday morning. The meal was one of four the students will cook and serve to community groups this semester in partnership with Stop & Shop.
“We haven’t been able to do as many functions under current circumstances, so it’s great to be able to do this,” Mark Kelly, a culinary instructor at the high school, said. “Bella (Delprete) is making 30 pounds of chicken – that’s a skill she wouldn’t be practicing otherwise.”
Before the COVID pandemic hit, Quincy’s culinary students were usually crowded in the kitchen to make meals to feed students and staff at a walk-up window; to serve in the school’s Presidents Cafe, which is open to the public; and for functions such as meetings and community events.
Current restrictions and guidelines have halted that kind of work, but the students who still come to school in person – only about 40 percent of the student body – say they haven’t lost out.
“I feel like we’ve gotten even more experience because there aren’t as many kids trying to do everything,” senior Joe Healy said as he chopped dozens of shallots Friday. “You get more individual attention.”
Since the cafe’s closure, students have been making frozen meals, such as beef stew, chicken piccata, minestrone soup, buffalo dip, eggplant parmesan and more. They cost $10 to $12 for staff, district administrators and frequent patrons of the Presidents Cafe.
Keith Segalla, director of Quincy’s Career Vocational and Technical Education program, said he also plans to distribute meals to the Germantown Neighborhood Center.
Delprete said, “This year has been different but great because we get to be more creative. We don’t just have to make what people order in the cafe. If there is something you’ve been wanting to try, you can just come do it.”
The program was awarded a $10,000 grant from Stop & Shop that has allowed them to get back to banquet-style cooking. Last month, the students made lunch for the city’s first responders. Friday’s meal was for Father Bill’s, and future meals will be made for a local senior complex and essential city workers.
Kelly said cooking for larger quantities of people – and for clients outside the school community – helps students gain skills in high-volume production, time management, organization and working under pressure.
The partnership with Stop & Shop provides free ingredients for all the community meals.
“Stop & Shop has a longstanding history of giving back to the cities and towns we serve, with a focus on fighting hunger,” Bryan Cramond, store manager of the Quincy Stop & Shop on Newport Avenue, said in a statement. “We are very excited to partner with Quincy Public Schools’ culinary arts students in helping to feed those in our community through the 2020-2021 school year.”
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Reach Mary Whitfill at firstname.lastname@example.org.