Culinary Arts students serve Downtown Food Pantry guests – MATC Times

Thanks to the Culinary Art students who are enrolled in the MATC Food Advocacy course, the Downtown Food Pantry provides hundreds of home cooked meals a day. Food the students use to create these meals is donated by Feeding America, a non-profit organization dedicated to feeding more than 46 million people through food pantries.

Chef Paul Carrier’s gold star kitchen is where the magic happens. “All food that’s brought over is gone within a day or two, it’s taken and eaten,” Chef Paul mentioned. He said at least “99% of the items are used with a 99.9% satisfaction rate.” In addition, Chef Paul said this is a zero-based budget class; their menu and curriculum is determined by what they get from Feeding America.

The Food Advocacy course focuses on food preparation. Chef Paul’s students have hands-on experience in the kitchen and cook the meals. When I stopped in, I saw three extraordinary students doing the work of what eight students would do. In the course, he also stresses good food safety techniques and the importance of a clean kitchen when working with food. Most importantly, in this class he gives the students authority over what meals are chosen.

Food Advocacy course student Monique explains how students decide what to make. “It depends on what we have in the freezer or cooler at the time. Whatever we have, we plan their meals for that day. For example, If we choose to serve chicken, they will cook and chill the food, package it up and distribute it over to the food pantry. Our food services are well received, with very little complaint. It’s different from a typical culinary class. We would call it a restaurant class, our labs are brought to reality.”

Chef Paul is the Faculty Lead Instructional Chairperson of Culinary Arts. He said, “It’s a great thing that they (the students) do; it keeps students focused and at school. They don’t have to worry about a meal. It may not always be healthy, (hints at creamy donuts) but we’ll take whatever donations we have.”

In terms of preparing nutritious meals, Chef Paul says they “refer to that focuses on four food groups: veggies, starch, chicken, and pork. We always aim to have something to go with protein, whatever is quicker for the pantry.”

The Culinary Arts partnership with the Downtown Food Pantry has steadily grown over the last year and a half.“The culinary class started preparing meals in August 2022, it used to be a quantity foods class, but it has been handed over to the International Food class. The Culinary Arts team is a smaller class, we are expecting a larger class to attend this Fall.”

“Working efficiently to feed the masses is what the team is all about,” said Chef Paul. “It works well, the students have had a good experience at the Food Pantry; this class has had almost a 100% satisfaction rate with little to no complaints.”

The Downtown Food Pantry has been relocated to M324 while S215 is being remodeled. Students need to bring their student ID card to receive free prepared meals to heat up for lunch and dinner. Due to the big increase in food demand, the Downtown Food Pantry is being remodeled.