When the plan is to feed 600 people, the preparation starts weeks in advance.
Alyssa Thooft, registered dietician at Stevens Community Medical Center, said preparation for the community meal served as part of the annual SCMC Fall Into Health on Oct 23 started in September.
Local produce was prepared and frozen in September so it could be used in the meal.
Organizers plan a balanced, flavorful meal from local sources, Thooft said. "We try to put together a meal that can be enjoyed by everyone at every age," Thooft said in an email response to Times' questions. "We will accommodate gluten free, vegetarian and vegan diets," she said.
Although preparation work starts in September some work needs to wait until only hours before the meal.
Preparation work is done the day before the meal. On the day of the meal, "We start in the kitchen at the elementary school as soon as the students are finished with lunch...," Thooft said. "We are lucky to have hard-working volunteers from (University of Minnesota Morris) and the community."
Volunteers served 525 meals last year. Thooft said an average of 500 meals have been served each year of the Fall Into Health event. The group planned for 600 meals this year. "The meal is served from 5 to 6:30 p.m. so that gets to be a lot of people served in a short amount of time," Thooft said.
The meal takes partners in volunteers from UMM and the community but also food providers from the area. Food sources are Prairie Horizons Farm in Starbuck, honey from Benson, camelina oil from the USDA soils lab in Morris, beans from Bonanza Bean. The cheese is from Bongards and made with milk from Riverview Dairy.
"We source from local farmers as much as we are able," Thooft said.
Sponsors of the community meal include SCMC, the University of Minnesota Office of Community Engagement, Sodexo, Morris Area Elementary School, Morris Healthy Eating and the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program.
Fall into Health starts at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 23, at Morris Area Elementary School. The event includes free lab draws, health information displays and the community meal. An SCMC provider panel starts at 6:30 p.m. Keynote speaker Holly Hoffman, a member of the reality TV series "Survivor" in the 21st season, will speak from 7 to 8 p.m.