COVID-19 continues to impact and impair holiday plans for Americans trying to celebrate with family members across the country.

USC students staying near campus for Thanksgiving, though, can order a free dinner from EVK courtesy of USC Hospitality and Student Affairs. Students looking to do so must fill out this form by Friday, Nov. 13 at 11:59 p.m.

Emily Sandoval, associate vice provost for student engagement, said providing a Thanksgiving meal for students is vital after a challenging fall semester.

“This is just our way of also acknowledging all the hard work that you all have done as students this semester,” Sandoval said. “We know it’s been a difficult semester, so it’s kind of a little gesture to start this off with a nice, home-cooked hot meal for Thanksgiving.”

According to Sandoval, it’s important to Student Affairs that this dinner is available to all USC students, regardless of whether they have a meal plan or are living in university housing. No meal plan is necessary for students to receive the free Thanksgiving meal, she said.

“Any student can sign up, so Student Affairs will cover the meal cost so students have a meal plan ... are covered, but students without meal swipes, the meal is covered 100%,” Sandoval said.

Residential Education and their endowment is currently funding the dinner, but because sign-ups are “looking healthy,” Sandoval said they may look to add additional funding sources.

This is the third year in a row that Student Affairs has hosted a free, university-wide Thanksgiving dinner. There will be no walks-in permitted as in previous years, instead, students will receive a boxed meal.

Joshua Argote Medrano, a sophomore from Seattle who won’t be able to go home for Thanksgiving, agreed with the idea of providing boxed meals due to concerns over the safety and well being of the dining hall staff.

“I think it’s a lot safer for the employees that are working, and it is essential to make sure that they’re safe,” Medrano said. “The fact that there is no mandatory testing to go on campus, we don’t exactly know if whoever is going to the dining hall is a carrier of COVID. So that just adds another layer of complexity if people were to eat in the dining hall.”

Despite students not being able to eat the meal in a dining hall, Sandoval still encourages students to connect with family and friends any way they can.

“I would say this would be a good opportunity to encourage students to hop on a Google Hangout or something after they pick up their meal to actually eat with their friends,” Sandoval said. “I would encourage [students to] hop on Facebook video, Instagram video, Google chat just hang out and not eat alone [on Thanksgiving].”

Sophomore Jericho Dimataga, who has been living at an off-campus apartment during the fall semester and registered for the free Thanksgiving meal, shares the sentiment.

“I do miss being in the dining but I feel like it’s a tradeoff that I have to give up because cases are rising everywhere,” Dimataga said, expressing concern. “If I have to eat in my apartment, it’s fine. Or if I really want to, I can just eat outdoors; it is not a big deal.”

Sandoval shared that USC Hospitality currently has 1,006 requests for the free dinner. She said students must use their USC email address when signing up for a meal. The menu, listed here, includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options to satisfy all dietary needs.

USC Hospitality and Student Affairs began providing free Thanksgiving dinners after President C. L. Max Nikias resigned. Nikias and his wife previously hosted students at their home for the evening.

The meals will be available for students who pre-ordered their box to pick up from 3-7 p.m. on Nov. 26, Thanksgiving day.