DUHS culinary class to host free chili luncheon for senior citizens

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

DOWAGIAC – Local senior citizens looking for a free lunch next week are in luck.

Dowagiac Union High School students in Andy Kruger’s culinary arts class are ready to put their skills to real-world use, hosting a free chili luncheon for senior citizens on Thursday, Nov. 11. There will be two separate lunch events, one from 11 a.m. to noon and another from noon to 1 p.m. in the foyer of the high school gymnasium, 701 W. Prairie Ronde St.

The students have been learning how to put together meals and measuring ingredients to prepare their elders beef chili in a bread bowl, a side salad and pumpkin bread for dessert. The pumpkin bread, Kruger said, was originally made by a student during a banana bread competition on a “free cook Friday,” where the students bring in their own ingredients.

“It’s fun seeing the students interact with the senior citizens, our community members,” said Kruger, who has been teaching the culinary arts class and hosting the event for about eight years. Last year, the event did not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In previous years, when Kruger was teaching a healthy lifestyles class, the school’s kitchen staff prepared the meal while his students served and greeted guests. The school tradition began about 20 years ago by teacher Linda O’Keefe.

Kruger, a DUHS graduate and longtime teacher, said the best part of the event is seeing his students give back to the senior citizens.

“I always tell them, ‘These older community members have already paid their dues. They’ve gone through a lot of the things you haven’t begun yet,’” he said. “They’ve held high positions in business, and had families, so it’s good for the young people to see the generations that come before them.”

The seniors enjoy being served by the students as well, according to Kruger.

“I think it’s a chance for the senior citizens to feel young again,” he said. “It was kind of neat, especially after the high school had all the renovations. A lot of the seniors had gone through the high school, and remember when it was first built. So, for them to see the new gym and facilities is pretty neat.”

Kruger said there will be enough food to serve about 70 people. In addition to the food, some of choir teacher Hunter Schuur’s students will be on hand to sing songs.