A Thanksgiving feast for Slugs who stay on campus

Good conversation and tasty food will be available for students, staff and faculty who remain on campus during the four-day Thanksgiving break

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Not everyone can get home for the Thanksgiving feast. Sometimes home is thousands of miles away and across an ocean. Other times “home’’ is not a fixed address

But for those who find themselves sticking around campus during the holiday, the fourth-annual Harvest Dinner provides a welcome social outlet and a rib-sticking meal, with menu options that will appeal to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike. Students, staff and faculty are welcome.

“This (dinner) reflects so beautifully on our spirit of inclusion,” said psychology professor Faye Crosby, an ardent supporter and early champion of the Harvest Dinner tradition. Over the years, this formerly small event has grown and evolved “into a whole new level of wonderfulness,” she said, thanks to community support and the efforts of UC Santa Cruz Dining Services.

Crosby also reflected on the need for the feast. Many students who linger on campus either find themselves too consumed with work or unable to afford such a trip, she said. She also mentioned international students who don’t have the time or resources to return to homes that are half a world away.

The feast takes place on Thursday, November 23, at Colleges 9 and 10 Dining Hall. Doors will open that day at noon. The meal will be served from noon to 2 p.m., and from 2 to 4 p.m. Those who wish to attend should RSVP here.

Like many traditions on campus, the Harvest Dinner began with students.  Several years before there was a campus-wide Harvest Festival, a small group of Cowell College students got together at Parrington House, located at Cowell, for a harvest feast. “I’m sure there were other parties going on on campus” during the Thanksgiving break, but the Parrington feast soon became a tradition, said Crosby, Cowell’s provost at the time.

Crosby visited the student feast at Parrington in 2010, then invited the diners to the Cowell Provost House the next year. In a couple of years, the feast was moved to the Page and Eloise Smith Library at Cowell, but outgrew this venue and moved, for a few years, to the Cowell Stevenson Dining Hall.

Along the way, community support sustained the festival. One generous donor named Charlie Levine contributed thousands of dollars that funded several of the Harvest Dinners. He was 90 years old at the time. “Levine, who subsequently passed away, just wanted people to appreciate everything good in life,” Crosby said.

During the four-day Thanksgiving break, most of the campus services shut down. All restaurants close. Libraries lock their doors. In other words, life can feel isolating for some members of the UC Santa Cruz community who stay on campus.

That’s why the Harvest Dinner is important to the Smith Renaissance Society, which provides a sense of belonging, academic support, social and financial assistance to UC Santa Cruz students lacking family guidance, including current and former foster youth.

“The Smith Society began hosting a harvest dinner for our students in Cowell College a few years back,” said Shawn Cervantes, (Oakes, '13, psychology), Smith Society lead volunteer. “Then Faye Crosby saw the value in what we were doing and began hosting a larger gathering open to all students. We now refer our community to the one main gathering, and pay for our students who do not have meal plans, much like our regular weekly lunches.”

Cervantes emphasized the importance of this event as a form of connection for those who stay on campus.  "Having a place where both Smith senior and collegiate fellows can gather together on a day when most of their peers are with family is very important,” she said. “For many Smith students, the holidays can trigger a lot of negative memories. The Harvest Dinner allows us to create new positive experiences for our students during a time of year that has historically represented sadness and even tragedy." 

This year’s menu offerings are: oven-roasted turkey, honey-glazed ham, vegan Tofurky Roast, vegan cranberry sauce, vegan mushroom gravy, vegan garlic mashed potatoes, three-cheese macaroni, sage stuffing, vegan roasted sugar-and-spice yams, vegan green beans, baby green salad, bread rolls, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, pecan pie, apple pie, whipped cream, vegan oatmeal cookies, and gluten-free ginger cookies. 

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. The cost is one swipe for meal holders.