Community dines at food-centric fundraisers

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Senior James Murray serves ramen to raise money for the cafeteria program and Island Grown Initiative.

Hardy Eville and Emily Gazzaniga

Island Grown Schools (IGS) and the student-led nonprofit group Pasta for the People both hosted successful fundraisers last week, one serving homemade ramen noodles and the other authentic pasta, as a way to benefit clubs and programs at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). 

Last Wednesday, more than 300 parents, students, teachers, and community members purchased homemade ramen noodles prepared by junior and senior culinary arts students under the direction of food program director Chef Kevin Crowell. IGS and the MVRHS school lunch program hosted the event in the school cafeteria. They sold 337 bowls of handmade ramen noodles, surpassing their goal of 200 bowls. 

Almost all the ingredients were donated by local farms: The stock was made of chicken from the GOOD Farm, venison bones from Runamok Farm and mushrooms from MV Mushroom. Whippoorwill Farm donated carrots and cabbage, Slip Away Farm donated garlic, and Slough Farm donated fresh eggs.

Suzie Brown, the IGS food educator for MVRHS, has worked with the school lunch program in the past by providing gleaned produce and introducing the Harvest of the Month. She said, “People are bringing home something that was made with love for a good cause. They purchased it to support these two programs that really help the high school culture.”

Proceeds from Wednesday’s ramen takeaway will go toward healthy school lunches and Island Grown Initiative’s farm-to-school curriculum. 

On Friday night, Pasta for the People, a nonprofit organization specializing in preparing and serving homemade pasta, took over the culinary arts kitchen and served a three-course Italian meal to 27 people. The dinner consisted of a farro salad with arugula, pistachio, and shaved Parmesan, handmade cavatelli with basil pesto, handmade tagliatelle with short rib ragu, and homemade cannolis.

MVRHS seniors Owen Favreau, Paige Pogue, Madia Bellebuono, and Daniel Rivard founded the organization last year. Paige said, “We developed [Pasta for the People] into these dinners we hold that fundraise for Island charities.” While the ramen takeout is new as of this week, Pasta for the People has been in operation for over a year. Pasta for the People was formed after the group took an Italian-language course their sophomore year at the high school.

Pasta for the People has previously served dinners to support the West Tisbury Congregational Church, and has provided food for a Climate Summit at Felix Neck. Donations from the Pasta for the People dinner on Friday went toward Martha’s Vineyard Best Buddies, a club that works to form friendships and make students with intellectual or developmental disabilities feel comfortable in the high school.

Eighty percent of the profits from Friday’s dinner went toward sending Best Buddies on a friendship walk in Boston for the first time. Friendship walks are where Best Buddies chapters from around the state meet and walk through Boston to raise awareness of the group’s goals of supporting members’ communication skills, self-advocacy, and independence. 

Kevin McGrath, the faculty advisor for Best Buddies at the high school, spoke about the way that food tends to bring people together. “It’s a great way for anyone to bond,” he said. “Any time you sit down and break bread with people, you have a cool experience, so it’s definitely a bonding experience.” 

Chef Crowell said, “I think that food is always just a central part of people’s lives. There’s something about food that just draws people together, and you can make it as special as you want.”

The school lunch program will continue to serve unique ethinic takeout on the first Wednesday of every month, moving forward.