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How do you feed hungry firefighters? RFHS students know how

Every Monday students in Sue Schwartz’s River Falls High School consumer science food courses plan and prepare meals for the River Falls Fire Department. Showing off the finished meal, from left: Amanda Rohl, Taylor Longsdorf, Carlie Christensen, Marcos Miller, Audrey Larsen, William Baillargeon and Miranda Neiderrmyer.

Every Monday evening members of the River Falls Fire Department gather at the fire station to train. In the past, if there was time, they would fill their bellies with sandwiches or pizza.

But lately River Falls High School students in family and consumer science food courses -- Nutrition and Wellness, Advanced Culinary Arts and the Connections class (an inclusion class) -- have planned and prepared meals for these firefighters.

Fire Inspector Doug Rudesill said the Monday training from 6:15-9 p.m. means “most of the firefighters would get off work and come straight to training.”

He said fire department membership is 50 and there are about 40 people fed each Monday.

“To feed 40-50 people takes a lot of work for someone at the fire hall,” Rudesill said.

Said Fire Chief Scott Nelson: “The reason we feed our firefighters while they attend training is two-fold: First, many come to training directly from their work and don’t have time to stop and get a bite to eat and; secondly, having a simple meal is a good way of showing that we appreciate our volunteers and that we want them to spend some time together to relax, eat and enjoy the camaraderie that being a member of the River Falls Fire Department offers.”

After talking with Sue Schwartz, family consumer science teacher, it was decided her students would get involved with feeding the firefighters.

Schwartz said the sophomore through senior students search for recipes, plan a menu, change the recipes to feed the 40-50 firefighters, and then prepare the meal.

Schwartz said she emails Rudesill the market order on Thursday or Friday, which he then sends over to Dick’s Fresh Market.

She said Rudesill picks up groceries Monday morning and delivers them to the school. Since the fire department pays for the groceries, the students also have to work within a budget.

“Often we prepare casseroles which are more economical and we check the newspaper ads to see what is on sale,” Schwartz said.

Sample menus have included: Chicken divan with a salad, French bread and chocolate chip cookies; pizza casserole, garlic bread sticks, and a layered salad with cheese; Italian beef pasta casserole, spinach and lettuce salad, garlic bread and brownies; and last frontier tater tot hot dish, New England salad wedges, apple crisp; and whole wheat bread and butter.

Schwartz said making the firefighters food allows the students to “learn how to work together, manage time and complete market orders, comparative shop and problem solve when things do not always go as planned.”

“We break the jobs into kitchen labs and people are responsible for various jobs -- many of the jobs require the students to work together,” said Schwartz. “The students have done a fine job on their part.”

"Making meals every Monday is a great way to start the week. I have class starting at 7:40 a.m. so I like being able to prepare and cook the meals in addition to learning new things like how to cook for a crowd,” said RFHS senior Megan Pechacek said. “It takes a lot teamwork and it is rewarding to see the end product."

For more on this story, check the April 17 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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