For the past three days, Yuba College culinary students have been seasoning, brining and prepping food for a community Thanksgiving dinner that will feed hundreds.

The free community dinner – one of a few dinners sponsored in the area – will be at the Marysville Elks Lodge, 920 D Street, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

today. Everyone is invited.

Since 1997, the college has helped prepare the community dinner. The purpose, instructors say, is to give students a hands-on experience with community service.

“It gives them a sense of purpose,” Roy Hanson, a culinary instructor, said Wednesday. “If you’re gifted and talented, you should give back to the community with what you’ve been blessed with.”

A group of about 20 students spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving: rolling out dough for pumpkin, cherry and apple pies; preparing 40 gallons of stock for brining and gravy; and roasting plenty of turkey. Eighty turkeys will be served for the community dinner, with 20 frozen turkeys going to Casa de Esperanza, a women's shelter, and 100 more for the SoYouCan Christmas delivery service. 

John Nicoletti, a culinary instructor and former Yuba County supervisor, said with this dinner, students have the opportunity to prepare food for 600 people. Whatever food is leftover will be donated to local charities. 

“I tell students they can do well in this class, but they won’t get an A if you don’t volunteer,” he said. 

The culinary philanthropy doesn’t stop just at Thanksgiving dinner; instructors also teach students about responding to emergencies, such as fires and floods and evacuations.

“It’s nice when you can make a difference,” Hanson said. “I think that’s key to what we do.”

There are a number of free community dinners around Yuba-Sutter today. Another offered will be across the river at the Yuba-Sutter Salvation Army (401 Del Norte Ave.) from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 

Melissa Soares, office supervisor for Salvation Army, said volunteers will not only be serving food, but also delivering it to people’s homes. For around 30 years, Salvation Army has been serving up Thanksgiving classics for the community. 

“It’s a tradition of ours that we do pretty much every year,” Soares said. 

She said the meal is not only for people in need, but also for people to socialize with the rest of their community.

“If they’re not with family or friends, this gives those people the opportunity to come and gather with other people and not be alone on Thanksgiving,” she said. 

Free Thanksgiving Day meals:

– 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Marysville Elks Lodge, 920 D St., Marysville.

– 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Salvation Army Yuba-Sutter, 401 Del Norte Ave., Yuba City. 

– 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Adventure Church, 1100 Garden Highway, Yuba City.

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