Making Sure The Needy Still Have Thanksgiving

Students assembled meals: Sage Ramos, a junior from Barnegat, Juliet Faas, a volunteer, Lindsay Genovese, a junior from Jackson, Tori Montroy, a junior from Toms River, and Carleigh Voorhies, a junior from Brick. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – 475 turkeys. 75 gallons of gravy. 750 pounds of potatoes. 320 pounds of stuffing mix. 250 pounds of green beans.

These are the ingredients needed to prepare some 3,000 Thanksgiving Day dinners for Feed the Need, a tradition of mass-quantity meal preparation by some 180 OCVTS (Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools) students who are enrolled in the culinary program at the Brick center.

Nick Steeger, a junior from Manahawkin, Dean Houser, a senior from Pinelands, and David Wardell, a senior from Toms River, weigh out portions of turkey. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Now in its 21st year, Feed the Need supplies dinners to the neediest of Ocean County.

Dining room and culinary arts instructor Chef Bruce VanSickle said most of the food is donated through Fulfill NJ (formerly FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties) in a shared partnership agreement.

“We do a collection of non-perishable foods at multiple vo-tech centers, and Fulfill NJ gives us a credit which pays for a lot, and we also have grants and partnerships with our purveyors,” VanSickle explained from the Brick center two days before Thanksgiving.

For example, every year the Ocean County Foundation for Vocational Technical Education pays for the containers and packaging material for the dinners, but the bags are donated through the school’s paper goods company, he said.

Brianna Lorenzo, a senior from Manchester, and Katherine Baker, a senior from Barnegat, scoop stuffing. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

OCVTS Pastry Arts students prepared 588 pies, plus tarts, cookies, rolls and breads to round out the Thanksgiving Day meal consisting of dark and white meat roast turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, candied yams, mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing.

Fulfill NJ provided the school with a list of organizations who would be picking up the meals the day before Thanksgiving, and the number of meals requested, said OCVTS Communications Director Jean Sullivan.

Ocean County Hunger Relief was scheduled to pick up 1,000 meals, and the remainder would be distributed through Dottie’s House, Preferred Behavioral Health, Regional Day School, and Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS), she said.

Culinary student Antonio Cervantes, a senior from Brick Township, spent Monday before Thanksgiving cutting up turkeys and Tuesday weighing out portions.

Connor Davis, a sophomore from Point Pleasant, and Ismael Tecalero, a freshman from Central Regional, weigh portions of turkey. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

“It’s a good cause, helping people in need, people who can’t afford Thanksgiving,” he said.

“It’s good for the community. I just hope they enjoy it and their situation gets better,” Cervantes said.

Katherine Baker, a senior from Barnegat, said the culinary students had been talking about Feed the Need since the first week of school this year.

“It’s so much fun, we’ve been working on it for about a week,” said Baker as she scooped out servings of stuffing. “I like helping people who are in need.”

Former OCVTS culinary arts student Juliet Faas used four days of her break from Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts to volunteer with Feed the Need.

“I came back to see everyone and to help out,” she said from the kitchen at the Brick center.   “We can make so many meals in a short period of time, so to have the opportunity to volunteer in the school is pretty wonderful,” Faas said.

In addition to Van Sickle, the culinary students are led by Chef Instructors Gary Lesniak, Kevin Musto, RoseAnn Delnero, Jill Geraghty-Scott, Joe Jakositz and Dennis Melia.

Antonio Cervantes, a senior from Brick, weighs turkey portions. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)
Cameron Aiello, a junior from Toms River, Lauren Torres, a junior from Toms River, and Dylan Giacobbi, a junior from Manchester, package meals for residents. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)