MSU’s Annual Thanksgiving Unity Dinner Provides More than a Meal

November 17, 2021

For many, the holidays are a time of gathering and celebration. One of the best parts of being a Spartan is being a part of the community. As Thanksgiving rolls around, we want to remind you of a very special event the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) hosts: the Thanksgiving Unity Dinner. This dinner is designed to give every Spartan a warm meal and a welcoming community, should they be on campus for Thanksgiving. We spoke with Juan Flores-Soto, coordinator for OCAT, to give you a deeper look into the Thanksgiving Unity Dinner.

SAS: What prompted the creation of this dinner?

Juan Flores-Soto: During my undergraduate years at Michigan State University, I noticed that many students, like myself, did not go home for the holiday break. This was for many reasons, some, like me, did not have a home to go back to and preferred to stay on campus. During this holiday break the cafeterias are closed, which leaves students who remain on campus with the need to find places to eat and to pay out of pocket. Many students do not have the financial resources to purchase several meals a day during the break. A fraternity brother of mine, Felipe Lopez, who at the time was serving as an ORESA Aid (now known as an OCAT Intercultural Aid  or ICA), was in a similar situation and could not afford to go home to Texas. He knocked on several doors in Akers Hall on Thanksgiving Day and invited students to gather in one of the lounges and eat a meal together. Everyone pitched in what little money we had and purchased food from Meijer for the meal. If it were not for Felipe's idea and courage to knock on doors and invite students, this would not have become an annual event. We spent the day and weekend in fellowship and playing table and video games.

SAS: What does this dinner provide for students?

Juan Flores-Soto: This dinner provides students a place to eat and one less meal to purchase or cook during the holiday break, but beyond that, it provides them an opportunity to interact with other students while trying a diverse cuisine. Many attendees tell us that had they not attended the Unity Dinner they never would have tried some of the food offered. This is why we try to provide a diverse cuisine every year. It also provides a festive atmosphere. We offer many activities for students to interact and a chance to win MSU merchandise.

SAS: What does this dinner mean to students?

Juan Flores-Soto: In my heart I feel that this dinner means that their institution cares enough about them to provide a meal when the dining halls are closed. They notice the group effort that it takes to organize and serve meals to hundreds of students. 

SAS: Describe the event, please. We want to give students an idea of the atmosphere.

Juan Flores-Soto: We will be located in the Brody hall classrooms. Students will check in when they arrive and then line up for food. We will have plenty of food, so students can get seconds and thirds if they're hungry. There will be enough seating in the classrooms for everyone. We will have music playing in the background and speak about what Thanksgiving means in America, why it was created, how it came to be a national holiday and how it is celebrated. We will also have many activities during the dinner for students to interact with one another and have a chance to win some MSU merchandise.

SAS: How can students sign up?

Students can visit ocat.msu.edu/thanksgiving-unity-dinner-2/ and sign up for the dinner. The deadline to sign up is Sunday, Nov. 21.

People who would like to volunteer can also do so on the website, as well. 

Spartans, if you’re not heading home for Thanksgiving this year, we urge you to sign up for the Thanksgiving Unity Dinner. Come out and enjoy some diverse cuisine and the company of fellow Spartans. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Juan Flores-Soto via email at floresj2@msu.edu.

 

 

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