Get Involved and Give Back with The Campus Kitchens Project

Campus Kitchen U HoustonToday is Food Day, a day devoted to “inspiring Americans to change their diets and our food policies.” College students are all in!

Did you know that 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children in America don’t know where their next meal will come from? Yet 40% of U.S. food is wasted each year! A great organization, Campus Kitchens, is working hard to tackle hunger and food waste in America.

What is The Campus Kitchens Project?

The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is a student-run community service organization devoted to developing sustainable food systems and combating hunger in communities across the nation. CKP partners with high schools, colleges, and universities to access on-campus kitchen space, minimize waste and recover food in dining halls, then prepare and deliver meals throughout the surrounding community. The Campus Kitchen Project thrives on its mission to “use service as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.”

Campus Kitchen GardenHow does a Campus Kitchen work?

A Campus Kitchen is a student-run kitchen. They focus on a more sustainable approach to food on campus by developing methods to keep food from going to waste by repurposing it into nutritious meals for food insecure residents in the community. The Campus Kitchen model relies on a few resources that are available in any community, including shared kitchen space, donated food, and motivated student workers. Each model is somewhat unique in that it is tailored to specific needs of the particular campus and community; however, all Campus Kitchens are centered on the same four components that are essential to accomplishing the mission of the organization. These four components include food recovery, meal preparation, meal delivery, and empowerment and education. Student volunteers teach nutrition education, run cooking shifts, plan menus, and organize fundraisers to keep their Campus Kitchen up and running. In 2014, 20,399 student volunteers dedicated 69,510 volunteer hours to recover approximately 884,574 pounds of food and prepare 292,934 nutritious meals!

Campus Kitchen food prepWhy is this organization so successful?

According to Laura Toscano, the director of the Campus Kitchens Project,“People often ask us why we believe partnering with students and schools is the best way to fight hunger in a sustainable way. In short, it’s because our current system is failing us, and the next generation is faced with a growing and expensive problem. At the same time, student leaders bring a clear new perspective, and an understanding that we need to harness existing assets in our communities to solve the interrelated problems of food waste and hunger. By simply recovering food that would otherwise have gone to waste, putting to use the state-of-the-art commercial kitchens on campus that are sitting dark in the evenings and on weekends, and developing programs that address the underlying root causes of hunger, we can create innovative, student-led solutions to this critical issue and inspire the next generation to solve it for good.”

 How can you get involved as a college student?

There are currently 49 Campus Kitchen locations at various schools across the country. If you are a college student looking to get involved on campus and give back to the community, chances are your school either has a Campus Kitchen or is in the process of creating one. Visit the link campuskitchens.org to quickly find out if your school has an existing Campus Kitchen. If your school does not have one, click “Start a Campus Kitchen” to learn more about bringing this innovative program to your school. What an exciting opportunity it would be to make the first initiative towards this great cause! The organization has a brand new online tool called “The Campus Kitchen Planner” that provides you with all of the information and resources you will need to start a program at your school. So, what are you waiting for? You can make a difference!

Natalie Roberts is currently completing the Morrison Chartwells distance internship and plans to become a registered dietitian.

Photos: Top: Campus Kitchen at University of Houston, the 49th and most recently launched Campus Kitchen. Middle: Students in the garden is from the Campus Kitchen at St. Peters University. Bottoms: Campus Kitchen leaders volunteering at DC Central Kitchen during CKP’s annual Boot Camp.

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