Chefs prepare thousands of Thanksgiving meals to give ‘breather’ to less fortunate



A group of local chefs who have dedicated themselves to helping the less fortunate, spent last week preparing enough food to feed thousands of people ahead of Thanksgiving.

Miami Valley Meals, a local nonprofit that launched in March after the 10 chefs lost their jobs at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, will dole out enough to-go frozen Thanksgiving meals Wednesday at University of Dayton Arena and at Trotwood-Madison High School to feed 6,000 people.

The meals will be served by the chefs in single or family sizes in drive-thru-style, according to Miami Valley Meals Executive Chef Matthew DeAngulo, who said the effort is meant to give back to Dayton-area people and make them feel “part of the whole.”



“When you’re homeless or when you’re hungry every day, it’s hard to think about doing other things and this one day can give you a breather a little bit,” DeAngulo said. “(With this effort we’re saying), I’m going to provide you with a Thanksgiving dinner and you’re going to sit down and enjoy it with your family and you don’t have to worry about where your meal is coming from.”

The effort got its start Oct. 3, when Miami Valley Meals Board Chairman Bill Evans met with DeAngulo about offering meals to the community and how such a plan would work. By mid afternoon, the two men, Executive Director Amanda DeLotelle and Daybreak CEO Linda Kramer had met to firm up details surrounding the effort.

“We just said we have to do something to help out and we can do something,” DeLotelle said. “It’s a little different than our usual operation. Usually we give meals out to client organizations and then they distribute to individuals.”

DeAngulo said his plan behind production of the meals — securing the ingredients, setting up storage, setting deliveries and addressing the staff — took about 10 days. DeLotelle said she worked to determine what amount of meals needed to be served by other organizations in years past to ensure as many people as possible are fed.

“Ten thousand seemed like an attainable number to us,” she said. “About 4,500 of those meals are our regularly weekly order.”

Working from their base of operations at emergency youth shelter Daybreak, and its social enterprise, Lindy’s Bakery, the 10 chefs whipped up the meals during six-hour shifts on two Saturdays — Nov. 7 and 14 — then eight hours a day each weekday last week and again on Monday. They received help from Daybreak/Lindy’s full-time staff and three youths from its program for four-hours shifts.



“They were just calm and professional and worked right through it, stayed focused and got it done,” DeLotelle said. “I’m so incredibly proud of my team and Lindy’s team. They’re just so special and they have such a great work ethic.”

The chefs, who have more than 125 years of combined experienced, created the meals from more than six tons of ingredients, including 4,000 pounds of turkey, 2,500 pounds of stuffing, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 2,000 pounds of green beans and 1,800 pounds of pumpkin bread dessert, DeAngulo said.

Also part of the gastronomic equation are 160 gallons of gravy, 95 gallons of cream mushroom soup and 50 gallons of cream of chicken soup.

Such a setup is markedly different from the fine dining atmosphere the chefs had been accustomed to working in, DeLotelle said, with the majority of them previously working at Citilites at Schuster Center until that business shut down in January for a makeover.

“It just has more purpose behind it,” she said. “It just feels more fulfilling for a lot of them because you know that people are depending on this and that they appreciate it. We loved being at Citilites and we loved serving those guests, it’s just different.”


WHAT: Free to-go Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, a dinner roll, and a pumpkin bread dessert, courtesy of Dayton non-profit Miami Valley Meals.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon today at University of Dayton Arena, 1801 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton, and at Trotwood-Madison High School, 4440 N. Union Road, Trotwood. Frozen meals will be served in single or family sizes in a drive-thru style.


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