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The Hopper College kitchen was one of the busiest places on campus the day before Thanksgiving even though all but around 150 students left Yale over November break. Yale Hospitality staff carved turkey, baked apple pie and mashed potatoes for students and members of the New Haven community — in service of a holiday tradition that was a far departure from those of years past.

“It is important that the students who are not able to go back to their loved ones continue to enjoy their stay on campus with all the restrictions they have to comply with during this period,” James Benson, Yale hospitality’s director of culinary excellence, wrote to the News. 

According to Hopper Dining Manager Gina Gentile, typical dining hall holiday festivities had to be put on hold due to newly introduced health and safety protocols. To minimize risk of spreading the coronavirus, no meals were served in the dining halls this Thanksgiving. Medical experts have expressed concerns that large holiday gatherings may fuel a COVID-19 spike in the coming weeks.

“We had limited options to give a proper send-off to students who were leaving campus this November,” Gentile said.

Students on campus picked up all three pre-packaged meals for Thanksgiving Day in advance, since the dining hall was closed on Thursday. Reheating dinners from their dorms represented marked contrast from other years, when residential colleges would typically host events and dinners for students who stay on campus during break.

“Being able to provide meals for this holiday means being able to give [students] a sense of normalcy, while making them feel celebrated and loved,” Katie Tosov, guest experience manager of Hopper dining, wrote in an email to the News. 

Despite the unusual circumstances, Yale Hospitality staff also prepared around 600 packaged meals for local New Haven residents on Thanksgiving Day through a long-running partnership with the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.

“Our long-lasting relationship with community support organizations, such as soup kitchens, food access and distribution organizations for the food-insecure has not diminished during these challenging times,” wrote Bob Sullivan, a Yale Hospitality catering director, to the News. “We recognize that Yale is immersed in the New Haven area – not in a bubble.”

The Hospitality team also ordered and distributed over 600 turkeys throughout New Haven with members of the Yale Police Department last Friday — the third year that the Yale Hospitality team has collaborated with the YPD on the initiative.

The start of November break marked the last time most students will be on campus until next February, when the spring semester begins. 

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu