Normally, the Covenant House Alaska kitchen staff has an average of 10-20 hours a week of volunteer power to help prepare and serve 180 meals a day. The Hunker Down Order brought changes to our normal visitor and volunteer policy which means the kitchen staff is working with less support, now and for the past few months. “We’ve had to shift our staffing, which requires a bit of extra time in the kitchen,” Kitchen Manager, Chef Shawn says, “we have also had to implement some different serving protocols to decrease contamination, like instead of self-serve salad bars, we are pre-packaging all of the salads, which takes a bit more time.”
With four full time essential kitchen staff who don’t all work the same shifts, it has been a challenge without the support of volunteers who help to prep meals by cleaning and chopping vegetables, making salads, and preparing soups. While soup donations from community members have not been accepted as a health safety precaution, kitchen staff have been spending extra time to ensure that soup is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for youth in need. “Even though the workload has been heavier, it’s worth it. The main goal is to keep the kids safe and fed.”
Kitchen staff have been getting creative to keep the mood light and continue nourishing the young people who live at the Youth Engagement Center, in addition to the young people who are part of the Rapid Rehousing Program, as well as staff. As part of the school lunch program, there is a set menu for breakfast and lunch, but for dinner, the staff can be more flexible. Chef Shawn says, “I just started asking staff what they’d be interested in eating at dinner time. I also ask for suggestions from the kids. I think it makes the place feel more like a home.” Two requests have been really popular with the youth: tacos in a bag, which is made by taking a bag of Doritos, slightly crushing the chips, and then loading the bag with toppings, like taco meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa, and sour cream. The other one is egg roll in a bowl, which is what it sounds like: a deconstructed eggroll—sautéed cabbage, carrots, beef, and egg with spices—served in a bowl. The kids love these meals because they get to personalize them and they are easy to eat.
“Certain ingredients have been put on hold to order from our supplier because of coronavirus precautions. Rice and various sauces have been really difficult to find,” Shawn says. Kitchen staff have had to reach for different recipes because of the lack of certain ingredients, but everyone agrees that the food continues to be delicious! Whatever the kitchen ends up making, they aim for “warm, comforting and filling.” Shawn says that the amount of meals each day has increased a bit during Hunker Down but they’ve been able to manage, “BIG shout out to the whole CHA team for pulling together to move things forward and help each other out during a crisis. And I appreciate my kitchen staff very much for being dependable and focused.”
If you are interested in helping out our incredible kitchen staff, consider ordering soup from Altura Bistro—if you tell them you’d like to purchase 5 containers of soup for Covenant House Alaska, they will throw in a 6th container for free as a donation! You can also choose to order soup from any other local restaurant and arrange a delivery to our Youth Engagement Center by contacting us at email@example.com. If you’d like to order something other than soup, keep in mind that we serve an average of 60 meals at breakfast, at lunch, and at dinner.