Life is delicious when you have a hot meal in your stomach and a warm, safe place to rest your body.
Life is also delicious when you help someone who doesn’t have either of those provisions.
Hamden Hall Middle School students are experiencing the joys of giving back and community service work with a second-year project called “Life is Delicious.” The program entails preparing food for the evening meal at the Columbus House Overflow Shelter in New Haven.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students recently gathered in the cafeteria to prepare lasagna, tossed salad, fruit salad, and cake for 100 people. Thirty loaves of bread rounded out the meal.
“I did it last year and it was really an eye-opening experience,” said eighth-grader Nohar Segal. “When you walk in (to the shelter) they all start smiling – over one plate of food, which is something we all have and don’t even think about.”
The “Life is Delicious” program is run out of Congregation Mishkan Israel. Coordinator Harvey Cheskis was on hand to help students with the meal preparation and spoke about the benefits students receive when involved in this type of altruistic undertaking.
“When students are taught to give back, it becomes a lifestyle – a knee-jerk reaction to those around them. It also empowers them,” said Cheskis.
Science teacher Beth Richter, who helped coordinate the effort between Hamden Hall and Mishkan Israel, agreed.
“The real goal is for the kids to be able to do something hands-on and not sort of abstract,” she said.
There was nothing abstract about the cooking, baking and assembling that was taking place in the kitchen and around the cafeteria tables. In fact, as eighth-grader Corey Millhouse stirred the ricotta cheese mixture for the lasagna, he noted that his arm was getting tired from the repetition.
Parent Christine Maisano supervised the ricotta group as they cracked eggs and added spices. Her son, eighth-grader Anthony Maisano, said he helped last year as well and appreciated the benefits of the program to those in need.
Next to Anthony was seventh-grader Charley Tiernan, who was on fruit salad assembly.
“I think it’s really great that the school is letting us participate in helping people who are less fortunate,” said Charley.
Prior to food prep, students heard from a representative of the Faces of Homelessness Speaker’s Bureau, an educational organization comprised of people who are or have been homeless. In addition, once the meal was ready to go, 10 students joined Middle School Director Brian Christman and Mrs. Richter in delivering and dishing out the evening meal.
Also on hand were parents Christine Fontana, Jim Millhouse, Christine Maisano, and Kathy Sapiente.
“It was very powerful and the kids were great,” said Mr. Christman of the culminating piece of the day’s endeavor.
The Middle School will prepare two more meals for Columbus House on Feb. 1 and March 8. A fundraiser component to raise money for the ingredients will also take place in the coming months.