The Berkshire Food Project fed between 160 and 180 people at its annual Thanksgiving feast on Monday; left, Greg Roach preparing 18 turkeys at Wild Oats Market.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Like most Thanksgiving feasts, it took hours to prepare but was over quickly.
Nearly 200 people came to the Berkshire Food Project's annual holiday feast on Monday night after the doors opened at 4 at First Congregational Church. By 5:30, some hard-working volunteers were finally getting a chance to sit down along with a few of the participants who were finishing up.
"We've been busy for two days," said project Director Valerie Schwarz. "Yesterday, we did two bushels of turnip from Florida Mountain ... They were the real McCoy," she laughed.
"It's like the fourth or fifth year that we've actually done it in the evening," she said. "We used to do it during the day and then we decided, why not do it during the evening when families could bring their children?"
Greg Roach, of Wild Oats Market in Williamstown, stuffed and cooked 18 turkeys. "Last night (Nov. 24) he was at Wild Oats Market all night, getting the turkeys ready for today's BFP dinner," wrote marketing manager Robin Riley. Schwarz said not only were the turkeys cooked and stuffed, Roach "brined them in apple cider first."
Former kitchen manager Adam Quimby came in to carve them up and pies came courtesy of the annual "Pie Palooza" at Williamstown's First Congregational Church.
The project feeds up to a 100 people free at its weekday lunches, but pulls out all the stops for its two annual holiday feasts: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Schwarz, who has been with the project for 20 years, said about 160 to 180 people attended this year.
"We were expecting around 250 today because our numbers have been up," she said, adding that transportation difficulties or dinners being put on by other organizations may have been a factor in the smaller number. Nearly 300 had turned out in 2009, in the midst of the global recession. Still, Schwarz considered it a good turnout. "We were full here for a good hour and a half."
Shifts of student volunteers from Williams College, where the project was conceived in 1987, pitched in with the regular volunteers, as did a contingent of Drury High School staff.
Judi Moitozo, team leader for the high school's comprehensive health faculty and a project board member, peeled "a lot of turnip" on Sunday and served for an hour or two.
By the end of Monday evening, volunteers were packing away leftovers, which Schwarz accounted as "the most important thing."
That's because the Food Project will be open for lunch again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week — so all that food definitely won't go to waste.
In 2011, the project provided 27,000 meals to those in need. Donations to the Berkshire Food Project can be made here.
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