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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

SW Side high schoolers cook for seniors who otherwise wouldn’t get home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner

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CHICAGO (WLS) — For these students at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, their classroom is the kitchen.

Since Monday, they have been preparing early Thanksgiving dinners for about 350 senior citizens who otherwise would not get a home-cooked holiday meal.

It’s an event in its tenth year, back in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEE ALSO | Thanksgiving 2022: PETA’s guide to vegan dinner

“During this season of giving thanks, we want to bring people together. So we’re excited to get people back in the gym this year,” said 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea.

The students, mostly juniors and seniors, have been hard at work prepping the meals and getting tips from a professional, Chef Diego Burgos.

“They’re doing a great job. You can tell they have a passion for it,” Burgos said.

Student Anaya Mackey said it is hard work, but she enjoys it.

“We have to sauté the vegetables and steam them,” Mackey said. “Brine the turkeys, butter the turkeys, season the turkeys… we have sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce.”

It is a farm-to-table experience. The school has the only working farm in the city of Chicago, with students growing all the ingredients, from corn to pumpkins. They even raised the turkeys!

“We used to see them alive and walking around and now we’re cooking them. It was kind of weird doing that, but it’s kind of like the circle of life. It happens all the time,” said Anika Dooley, a student.

The students said the big payoff is watching their guests enjoy what they’ve cooked.

RELATED | Tips for Thanksgiving 2022 amid inflation, rising food costs and ways to save

“I can’t tell you how many times I hear a senior say, ‘When I was in high school…’ or ask them questions. The interaction between the seniors and our students is what I think it’s all about,” Principal William Hook said.

Students also set the tables in the gym, decorating them with centerpieces made by horticulture students that the seniors get to take home.

But, there’s a bigger takeaway for everyone: giving thanks for the chance to get to know new people.

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