Holiday dinner in MP to promote community

Jordan Beck

Even before NMU Dining Services’ last Harvest Dinner began, Marketing Manager Stephanie Raboin knew the decision to label the night’s entrees with the community in which the ingredients were grown was a good one. But she didn’t realize just how deeply it would resonate with the student body until after the event was done.

The Harvest Dinner will include holiday favorites made from ingredients grown in local U.P. communities for NMU students and the community. (Kristen Koehler NW)
The Harvest Dinner will include holiday favorites made from ingredients grown in local U.P. communities for NMU students and the community. (Kristen Koehler NW)

“What happened was that students started taking ownership of the food items from their home town,” Raboin said. “They were posting things like ‘you’re welcome for the corn muffins’ on Facebook.”

Raboin said emphasis on community is a major part of NMU’s annual Harvest Dinner, which will be taking place from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 in the Marketplace. Offering a large and varied menu of holiday favorites, many of which incorporate locally-made ingredients, is one of NMU Dining Services’ main goals with the event. Their biggest goal, however, is to promote the feeling of belonging so central to Thanksgiving.

The Harvest Dinner is made possible by the work of several staff members, Raboin said. These staff members may work in different teams, but they’re all trying to accomplish the same overall goal, another successful Thanksgiving celebration.

“We have groups of people working on the menu, the menu items, the nutritional value of the food, marketing, and cooking and serving the food. So, we all have to work together,” Raboin said.

Robin Rahoi, NMU Dining Services’ registered dietician, said the school has made a conscious move away from offering processed foods and toward using sustainably-grown ingredients from around the local area.

While many of these locally-sourced foods are used in the Harvest Dinner, that’s not an excuse for students to binge, Rahoi said.

“I think that when people approach holidays, they look at it like they can eat all they want,” Rahoi said. “So, the issue is that they over-consume; they take overly-large portions. But I would say that you should just approach it as any other day. You can enjoy everything on the Thanksgiving table, but portion sizes should be kept manageable.”

Rahoi’s role in NMU Dining is largely to meet with students about dietary concerns, whether those concerns are related to weight loss, weight gain, eating disorders, allergies or anything else, she said.

She’s also been working on MyMenu, a website designed to share dietary information about the foods served by NMU Dining, she said.

The Harvest Dinner is far from the only project NMU Dining is planning, Raboin said. One upcoming event, hosted by the group called the “Let’s Chat” forum, will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4 and gives NMU students a chance to ask ASNMU and dining management staff about anything related to the dining program. Another, the “Hunter’s Feast,” is a large, themed lunch taking place Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Wildcat Den.

Raboin said NMU Dining prides themselves on offering a wide variety of Thanksgiving fare for the Harvest Dinner, but they’re more proud of the event’s ability to bring people together.

“Having some of your favorite foods from Thanksgiving dinners growing up is important,” Raboin said. “But what’s even more important is the sense of community that comes with sitting down with your friends or family.”

The Harvest Dinner will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 in the Marketplace, which will be closed from 2 to 4 p.m. that day for setup. Admission rates for the general public are $9.50 for adults and $5.25 for children. Student meal plans are accepted.