Next week, a volunteer force of 1,200 community folks will help H-E-B/Central Market feed a free meal to as many as 20,000 guests in Dallas and Fort Worth. The North Texas dinners are part of the grocery company’s 24-year-old tradition called Feast of Sharing, a project that serves a big holiday feast to anyone who would like to attend. And it’s free. No tickets. Every person who wants a meal will enjoy as much food as he or she likes. And if they need transportation to the dinner, the T in Fort Worth is offering free passes that day.
But it’s not the same kind of Thanksgiving dinner you’ve seen before, where people stand in long lines. Volunteers from the community work as servers – as in, the guests are seated and volunteers take the meals to them. If they want seconds and thirds, volunteers go get them. If they want to wait a couple of hours and then eat another meal, volunteers will get that, too.
This special dinner comes from a 45-foot-long mobile kitchen that H-E-B outfitted to generate 2,500 meals per hour. It will travel all over the state in November and December to stage Feast of Sharing in 30 cities.
The numbers are impressive: for the Fort Worth feast alone, the mobile kitchen will prepare 2,000 pounds sliced turkey breast; 1,500 pounds of cornbread dressing; 80 gallons giblet gravy; 1,500 pounds each of mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables; 60 gallons cranberry sauce; 6,000 dinner rolls; and 1,000 pumpkin pies.
The Fort Worth dinner will take place on November 6 at Will Rogers Memorial Center at the Amon G. Carer, Jr. Exhibits Building; and the Dallas feast will be on November 8 at the Centennial Building in Fair Park. The feast hours are 2 pm until 7 pm at both sites.
Not only is this event not a food line, it’s a full-on celebration for the season. Musical entertainment is a huge part of the festivity, and Santa is there for free photos with kids. As one of the Central Market staffers told me, it’s touching when a mom, with tears in her eyes, tells you that the photo of her children with Santa means the world to her because she has no other pictures of her kids.
“We want to make a difference on one day, and it’s about more than feeding people,” Austin Jourde, GM of the Fort Worth store, said. “We’re having a party and letting people have fun.”
The dinner guests will be served in other ways, as well. Dozens of social service agencies will be on hand to distribute information and help people in need find assistance they’re missing. Among these are the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, Tarrant Area Food Bank, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Legal Aid of North West Texas, the United Way, American Red Cross, North Texas Food Bank and Dallas Public Libraries.
I’m hoping plenty of us get out and help; hundreds of volunteers are required to pull this off. A small team of friends from Texas Toast Culinary Tours (my other job) and Fort Worth Foodie magazine will donate a little of our time to help, and we’d love to see more of our friends there doing the same. I think of it as one step to getting the season underway in a fashion that leaves no room for any bah-humbug.
Want to volunteer? Call the store, 817-989-4700 or click here.
Here are some other things happening at Feast of Sharing;
* Kids’ Zone play area will include bounce houses, face-painting, storytelling and time with Santa Claus.
* Live entertainment will include area musicians, school bands and choral groups, church choirs and more.
* Harris Methodist will be on hand to give flu shots.
* Free parking is offered.
What’s not to celebrate?