At the Campus Kitchen at Saint Louis University (CKSLU), we consider ourselves a student-led program. For over half of the year, students collect and deliver the food, plan the meals, lead the cooking shifts, and produce most of the fresh meals we serve our elderly, low-income, and disabled clients. There are even weeks of the year when we have more student volunteers than we can accommodate, but anyone who works in a school setting knows the seasonality of this world.
We have hungry clients all 52 weeks of the year. If you subtract summer break, fall break, thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and finals week, we are only left with 30 weeks during which campus is fully staffed with student volunteers. This leaves 22 weeks – over a third of the year – when we must call on our larger community to help feed clients for whom hunger never takes a vacation.
Thankfully, we have been fortunate over the years to collect a loose corps of non-student supporters who fill in during these breaks. These “friends” of the kitchen, as we call them, are loyal in their support. Many of them volunteer at the same time each year. At this point, rather than contacting them in advance of a break, many of them contact us, to be sure to get their slot reserved. It feels a bit like homecoming week. The weeks before and after the holidays, or in the summer, when these same faithful volunteers show up feel a little bit like homecoming week.
These groups include church groups, university staff and faculty departments, and corporate groups. One such group, from the ITS department at Saint Louis University, have become particularly active supporters, adopting a shift each week for the months of December and May. They have come to support the kitchen outside of that time as well, holding ongoing food drives to collecting the kitchen staples (flour, cooking oil, spices) they’ve seen lacking when they come to volunteer. Megan Greathouse, one of the regular volunteers from ITS, says that she volunteers with CKSLU because of a kindness she experienced. “Helping in Campus Kitchen is my way of helping out someone today that is not as fortunate, and repaying those who helped my family out when I was a child.”
A few non-student volunteers also help on an ongoing basis. Jim Klenke, an administrator at another local university, has been volunteering at the CKSLU nearly every Sunday for over seven years. He knows the students, the clients, and has taken a sense of ownership of the kitchen, buying much needed pots pans and utensils when he sees them on sale.
Food insecurity and chronic hunger are not simple problems; they take an entire community to combat them. If you’d like to become a part of our all-important backup team, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 314-977-3881.