A Thanksgiving bounty for non-traveling Slugs

Conviviality, companionship, and good food will be available for students, staff, and faculty who stick around during the four-day Thanksgiving break

The Harvest Dinner will provide a touch of fall cheer for those who stay on campus during the Thanksgiving Break. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

A hungry crowd of 600 people is expected at UC Santa Cruz’s third-annual Harvest Dinner on campus Thanksgiving Day at College Nine/Ten Dining Hall.

Doors open at noon on Thanksgiving—and there will be two seatings for the meal: noon to 2 p.m. for early birds and 2 to 4 p.m. for other diners.

This fall tradition started in 2013 at the request of Faye Crosby, Cowell College provost at the time, who wanted the campus to offer conviviality, companionship, and good food to students, staff, and faculty who stick around during the four-day Thanksgiving break, when most of the population clears out and the bustling campus can feel isolating.

While the dorms stay open, and residential life staff members stick around, most of the campus services shut down. All restaurants close. The libraries lock their doors.

In other words, life can feel lonely for some members of the UC Santa Cruz community who stay on campus because getting home for the holidays is logistically difficult or too expensive, or perhaps there isn't a "home" to go to.

“Some students may not have the resources or opportunity to go home with families around the holiday,” said Lucy Rojas, interim dean of students. Some international students come here from as far away as India and China, and for them, going home for a few days isn't feasible.

In the midst of this quiet campus, the Harvest Dinner provides a warm and welcoming environment, along with a holiday feast that covers all the important bases, regardless of dietary preferences: turkey breast, Tofurkey roast, vegan mashed potatoes, vegan gravy, honey-glazed ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, butternut squash, green bean casserole with friend onions, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, pie, and, of course, Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

While taking their meal, diners will socialize, reminisce, and look at handouts that talk about how countries across the world have holidays that are similar to Thanksgiving—for instance, the August Moon festival in China and the “fall evening” festival in Korea.

Since its inception, the Harvest Dinner has become more popular. “When it first started, it was somewhat informal, and there were 100 people, ” said Rojas. Then attendance doubled last year, and has gotten even larger this year.

Monday, November 21, is the last day to make reservations. The cost is one swipe for meal-plan holders.

For non-meal plan holders, the cost is $11.95 for attendants 13 and older, and $5.95 for children ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 eat for free.