The national program "#ChefsForThePolls” will be represented in Fairbanks on Election Day, when local volunteers feed hungry voters at the JP Jones Center, 2400 Rickert St.
Longtime local chef and community volunteer Jennifer Jolis came up with the idea to partner with the national program and contacted Susan Willsrud, co-director of Calypso Farm & Ecology Center. Together, they made it happen.
On Tuesday, voters who come to the JP Jones Center in south Fairbanks to cast ballots can also collect a free meal. Truth is, you don’t have to be a voter to take advantage of this delicious opportunity. No one will be turned away.
Meals will be available at these times: 7-9 a.m. for breakfast; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch and two dinner opportunities, 4-6 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. The food is takeout, all prepared and served by community volunteers.
“I think this is a great idea,” said Willsrud. Calypso already operates the Southside Market at JP Jones Center every season, as well as the Hunter School Garden and is a strong supporter of this program.
Pulling together volunteers happened quickly and volunteers expect to feed as many as 500 people.
“Last presidential election, there were 200 people who voted there,” Willsrud said. “They are expecting maybe a higher turnout. Five hundred people are registered. We are planning on having enough for somewhere in between 200 and 500 people.”
“There has been so much interest, it could have been at multiple locations,” she said. Perhaps that can happen in the future. For now, #ChefsForThePolls will be at this one location.
Organizers embrace the message of World Central Kitchen, that food brings people together. #ChefsForThePolls is an initiative of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. It was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres in 2010.
This year, #ChefsForThePolls will be at numerous cities around the country, as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Puerto Rico.
World Central Kitchen believes the power of food can heal and strengthen communities and bring them all together as a country.
“ChefsForThePolls is for every member of the community, as a celebration of Americans coming together as a nation at this critical time,” according to a press release. “As people across the country get ready to make their voices heard, often facing great nearly insurmountable challenges to do so, we can support and uplift them, showing them how much they matter.
“We can use the power of food to make Election Day one of community and hope.”
“It’s nice to have a commonality around food, sharing with each other,” Willsrud said. “I think that feels great, especially given how contentious of a political environment there is right now.”
If community members want to perform another good deed on Election Day, Jolis suggests they do what she did a few days ago.
“I went down to the election office,” she said. “I had three dozen brownies in little plastic baggies.”
Everyone who was waiting in line to vote got one of her brownies.
“This is from ChefsForThePolls,” she told voters. “Thank you for voting. Thank you for being part of our community.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.