Bluffton University’s Harvest Dinner prepares future RDNs; benefits food pantries
What started out as a spaghetti dinner fundraiser organized by Bluffton University nutrition and dietetics students 16 years ago has this year evolved into a farm-to-table feast featuring local produce and homemade fare. The Nov. 16 Harvest Dinner includes menu items such as tomato sauce and watermelon jelly featuring garden-fresh ingredients.
“We want this meal to be something that people may not be able to get on a daily basis,” said Jeanna Haggard, assistant professor of food and nutrition at Bluffton. “We want it to be a special meal. The new element this year is that much of the meal will be grown, harvested and processed by students in Bluffton’s dietetics and nutrition program.”
The menu will feature Swiss chard potato gnocchi, homemade spaghetti sauce, roasted vegetables, whipped acorn squash, rolls with watermelon jelly, and a variety of desserts.
“It’s very exciting to show the community that you can find food locally that is healthy, not that expensive and tastes good,” said Brianna Sinn, a junior nutrition and dietetics student from Haviland, Ohio.
Sinn is one of the students who is overseeing the production of the meal as part of Bluffton’s Food Service Systems Management class. Levi Elsea, a nutrition and dietetics major from Findlay, Ohio, is also in the class.
“It’s a neat experience seeing where the produce comes from and making it into something that someone is going to enjoy—just the whole start to finish of it all.”
Additional ingredients are coming from local farms and businesses including apples from Sugar Creek Orchards in Beaverdam, grain from Our Fathers Foods in Fort Recovery and potatoes from Schmutz potato farm in Bluffton.
The meal, which will be held from 5-8 p.m. in the Bluffton Middle School Cafeteria, will benefit the Bluffton food pantry and Churches United Pantry in Lima, Ohio. The cost of the meal is a donation, and all of the funds will benefit the two food pantries.
“The community supports a lot of what we do here at Bluffton, especially with the local farms providing us ingredients and then us making it and raising money for the food pantries,” said Elsea. “It’s a nice give and take between the community and Bluffton University.”
Members of the Bluffton University Nutrition Association are handling front-of-the-house service with help ranging from football players who will be bussing the tables to music majors who will be providing entertainment.
“It’s a great way for the community to see what we’re doing here as Bluffton students and for us to network with the community and get to know them better,” added Sinn.
According to Haggard, the meal also serves as necessary real-world experience for the students who may one day oversee meal production at hospitals or school cafeterias as registered dietician nutritionists.
“This meal requires a lot of planning,” explained Haggard. “They have to critically think through the production which is what they’ll do as an RDN, and there are very few food service establishments that cook for 500. So if they can do the production under these circumstances, I know they will do even more amazing things in the future.”