For two Leavenworth area Thanksgiving meals, the traditional symbol of the cornucopia, the “horn of plenty,” could not be more apt.
Together feeding as many as 1,500 people, the Fort Leavenworth Dining Facility’s Thanksgiving meal and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s Seventh Street Feast, both scheduled for Thursday, are already working to fix the food they’ll need to feed anyone who comes in the door.
Marcia Johnson, the food program manager for the installation at Fort Leavenworth, said last year the fort’s Dining Facility fed about 350 people during the first community Thanksgiving meal it had offered since opening. The meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Dining Facility, 400 Iowa Ave., with admission free for meal card holders, $6.40 for family members of enlisted personnel and $7.50 for everyone else. For a couple of reasons, Johnson said she expects the meal to get bigger this year.
“Last year, the Dining Facility opened in July, and Thanksgiving came up right after that,” she said.
Word has gotten out more about the facility since then and it has been opened up for Thanksgiving this year to the public by senior post leadership, Johnson said.
She said the fort’s annual Thanksgiving meal is a chance to offer those who can’t be at home a taste of it.
“First and foremost, it’s for the soldiers,” Johnson said. “And we want to make it like a homestyle meal.”
That means a lot of preparation beforehand, from decorations that include ice sculptures and a display table featuring a cornucopia to the numerous dishes available, taking into account a range of tastes, including vegetarian options.
“Everything is done from scratch,” Johnson said.
When they’re done, the staff will have cooked 150 pounds of turkey alone, in addition to the sides and desserts. She said about 30 to 40 kitchen staff will be on hand for the preparation.
“For Thanksgiving, it’s a 24-hour operation,” Johnson said.
John Goodloe, on the other hand, said most of the preparations at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church begin early Thursday morning, with the exception of smoking the turkey the night before. As for how much food they’ll use to make it happen, he said volunteers will need about $3,000 worth of ingredients to create what might be the largest community Thanksgiving meal.
“It is a truckload of food,” literally speaking, he said.
Serving from about 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Goodloe said the meal is completely free and will be served in the St. Paul Lutheran School gymnasium, 311 N. Seventh St. in Leavenworth. Home delivery is available.
At its peak last year, Goodloe said the Seventh Street Feast served about 1,000 people in three hours. They rely on volunteers from the Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth communitites, including their partners at Independent Baptist Church. Veterans Cab provides transportation, if needed, to and from the gymnasium at St. Paul’s Lutheran School, where the meal will be served.
Page 2 of 2 - As large as the Seventh Street Feast is, Goodloe said it is just one of a number of ongoing community outreach efforts based around food — a list that includes the regular Paul’s Buffet at the church and the community lunches sponsored by St. Paul’s and other local churches. From the people who come down to eat to those who drive from as far as Belton, Mo., to help out, Goodloe said the Seventh Street Feast is about fellowship, too.
“It’s getting food to those who need it and about building community,” he said.
With senior leadership serving up the food and the potential for community members to eat alongside active-duty service members, Johnson said to some extent the fort’s meal is the same.
“We’re trying to make a home away from home on that particular day,” she said.