While working at home during the coronavirus pandemic, Assistant to the Dean and Scheduler at Northampton Community College’s (NCC) Monroe Campus Soreida Vicario-Ashcroft thought of those essential staff “that put themselves out there on the front lines while I am staying at home. They have limited interactions and limited options on what they could eat.” At the Monroe Campus, these essential staff include Public Safety and Facilities employees. She decided to show her appreciation by cooking for them.
It all started when Communications Specialist Patti Canavan asked for photos of what NCC faculty and staff were cooking or ordering out to share in the college's daily email, Today@NCC. To help faculty and staff cope with working from home and being isolated from each other, Today@NCC began incorporating daily themes to encourage sharing photos. One of those themes is #TastyThursday.
Vicario-Ashcroft participated, thinking it might inspire others while they were quarantined and having to prepare home-cooked meals daily. She also saw it as a way of giving them some ideas of what to prepare. But, she took it a step further: providing home-cooked meals for essential staff working at the Monroe Campus.
First, Vicario-Ashcroft consults Facilities Manager Robert Bryant about who on his staff have allergies. Then, she creates a diverse menu for the week. After letting Bryant know the menu, she and her husband (who calls himself her sous-chef) put on masks and gloves and start cooking. She delivers the food from her own kitchen in person daily, in individual containers. At an agreed-upon time, she meets Bryant and picks up the empty containers, from the day before.
While all the recipients are grateful for all the food, they do have some favorites; they tell Vicario-Ashcroft that they especially enjoy her cottage pies and buffalo wings.
The holder of a hospitality/culinary arts degree, Vicario-Ashcroft is a huge fan of all cooking shows. “It comes from my mother, who cooked every single night for the family, and I continued that with my children when they were growing up,” she says. Since her children have become adults with homes and families of their own, cooking for NCC employees has given her the opportunity to prepare meals for a group again, she says.
Helping people in her community is not new to Vicario-Ashcroft. “I grew up with a mom and dad who were very involved in their community and giving back. My mom was a nurse, and my dad was a deputy sheriff.” Vicario-Ashcroft started volunteering as a candy striper. She and her husband continued the tradition with their children, working in after-school programs, nursing homes and hospitals.
Vicario-Ashcroft says, “This [cooking for NCC employees] really just started as me wanting to give back to those that I consider as the frontline on campus, letting them know that we all are thinking about them and thanking them. I am happy to be able to highlight the Public Safety and Facilities crew, who are working hard for all of us during these trying times.”