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Cooking Up New Ways to Give

When children choose a healthy dish over Oreo dirt cake and fish sticks, you must be doing something right. 

That was the case for St. Norbert College Dining Services when they took part in the first-ever Kids Food Event, held last month at the Children’s Museum of Green Bay. The college team received the most votes from the young food enthusiasts for its turkey shawarma, a campus favorite.

“It’s like a gyro, but with turkey meat instead,” says Chef T.W. Stanciu (Dining Services). “We were trying to teach the kids good, healthy eating. … In order to get them to stay over by us, I told them that I gave this to Brett Favre for midnight snack or Aaron Rodgers [Packers training camp]. I threw some names out there.”

Serving the common good
The event served as another opportunity for Dining Services to live out the mission of the college through outreach to the community. In December, the staff baked and decorated cookies and put together meals for the De Pere Christian Outreach Food Pantry.

“It gives us a chance to bring the front and back of the house teams together to engage in something fun outside of work,” says Mary Jo Morris, director of dining and conferencing services. “[Head Chef Dan Froelich’s] department started this the year before. We expanded it this year. We frosted cookies together and boxed them up. We brought over food that we had left at the end of the semester.”

“It’s a great way to close our perishable food loop,” says Melissa DaPra, manager of Ruth’s Marketplace. “We are closed for service over Christmas break and we have to buy things in such mass quantities. For example, you have to buy cases of tomatoes, and when we close, we are going to have a partial case left. This gave us an opportunity to give something special to people who usually only get canned and boxed food.”

Keeping the faith
Unlike most departments, Dining Services staff members are unable to participate in the regular Wednesday morning Sacred Hour at St. Norbert due to meal preparation duties. To honor the spirit of Sacred Hour, Dining Services managers seek creative ways to recognize employees. One idea, which originated in the college’s business and finance division, is a “pay it forward” effort where staff members are able to give away a free meal ticket.

“It gave the staff an opportunity to say, ‘I can give it to the Birdseye milk man who is here at 5 a.m. every day. I can give this to a student who I know is always out of meals. I can bring my spouse. I can treat my neighbor.’ We didn’t care how they used it,” says Morris.

“To be able to sit with your co-workers at lunch and say, ‘I’m going to give mine to this person or that kid’ was exciting,” says Kathy Dunn, production assistant. “It was a really cool thing to be able to pass on.”

Stanciu said that he gave his ticket to the cashier with the instruction to present it to a student who pays for another student’s meal.

 “Now we have to do this monthly,” says Morris. “We feel that our staff deserves this. In dining, you never get to partake in anything that happens during the day. You lose the mission, the reason you work here. We don’t want our staff to lose that. There is something special about working here.”

Living in the spirit of radical hospitality
Morris sees “paying it forward” as one way to show gratitude to the Michels family, who gave a $7 million gift to fund the new dining hall, which opened in January of 2012. An emphasis on hospitality also supports the college mission.

“Students love it when you know their names,” says Froelich.

“We try to get to know the students,” says Dunn. “If you know that a student plays hockey, you can ask about the game last night. It’s a great opportunity to make a connection and make them feel welcome.”

April 2, 2013