Last summer, Boston College Dining, like many customers and food service operators, settled into the idea of curbside pickup as a very real—and pretty necessary—way of life. Executive Chef Michael Forcier and the rest of the BC Dining team served up complete family meals to go for the campus community. These included meals like rotisserie chicken with sides or beef tacos with churros for dessert.
Curbside for a Cause gave these to-go meals so much more impact and started an ongoing initiative, thanks to a brainstorming session with BC Dining managers and Beth Emery, director of BC Dining. In the summer, a family (or college roommates) purchasing a meal for $22 got a meal for four, and at the same time, donated a meal to someone in need.
BC Dining worked with various organizations in the community, like youth centers and senior centers, to distribute the matched meals.
The program turned into a great way to give back—both for the dining department and their customers, Forcier, left, said at the time: “You’re sitting down with your family of young children and explain to them that by eating this meal, we’re also feeding another family of four…how is that now a great message to share with your young children?”
“The reason we did it in the summertime was that all of our employees continued to work even though we had very little business,” Forcier says. “It was primarily donation work, so our employees would have a purpose and we could give back to people in need.”
In addition, “everyone needs food cooked,” in these unpredictable times, he adds. The result? “In our wildest dreams, we didn’t think it would be as successful as it was.” The interest in the program and the sales both exceeded expectations.
Since the summer version of Curbside for a Cause went so well, when Thanksgiving rolled around, the dining team did more, especially for students staying on campus during the holiday, celebrating “Friendsgiving,” a positive spin on not being with your family for the holidays. How much more could BC Dining do? A lot.
Hundreds of pounds of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes were packed up for takeout, ready to reheat for a perfect Friendsgiving, complete with pumpkin bread, apple tarts and pumpkin pie. The preorderable meal was available for students at $21.99 and included a Zoom Q&A to answer student questions about cooking Thanksgiving (sometimes for the first time on their own, Emery notes.)
Faculty, staff and others could get a Thanksgiving meal for $65, and that was the support for Curbside for a Cause. In this case, they worked with the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs to provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need. Again, the program far exceeded expectations, and hundreds of meals were provided. A similar scene repeated again for Christmas dinners.
“For us it hasn’t been about making money—of course, it’s important to capture revenue—but to us, this is more about it being the right thing to do,” Forcier says. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s more work for me. But those days when people come to pick up, I don’t have days better than that. It’s pure joy…giving to others makes me feel so good it’s almost selfish.”
Currently, BC has just started its new semester, which is abbreviated and with no spring break, in order to reduce the spread of the still-ongoing pandemic. Forcier has led the training for foodservice safety, taking his cues from the CDC and WHO along the way. “You’re never going to eliminate risk, but you can minimize it.”
Looking ahead, there will be an Easter Curbside for a Cause on deck, and Forcier is once again ready to serve.
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