Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS Jeff Gordon joined students from the Campus Kitchen at the University of Georgia (CKUGA) today in their fight against hunger by packing meals for hungry older adults.
CKUGA focuses on providing healthy meals for older Athenians who struggle with hunger and isolation, using fresh produce and excess food that would otherwise have gone to waste on campus. This year they are one of ten Campus Kitchens supported by a Senior Hunger Outreach grant, made possible through a partnership between the national Campus Kitchens Project and AARP Foundation. This grant is empowering Campus Kitchens across the country to increase their meal production and design new programmatic initiatives that will combat isolation and engage their older adult clients.
Today, as part of AARP’s and AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger, Gordon sliced strawberries for a fruit salad and helped CKUGA student volunteers pack meals and deliver food through the ACCA’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.
Nearly nine million Americans age 50 and older face the threat of hunger. AARP and AARP Foundation created Drive to End Hunger to raise awareness about the problem of hunger among struggling Americans 50+ and to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to the problem. In 2011, AARP became NASCAR’s first cause-based primary sponsor with Drive to End Hunger featured on the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by Gordon.
What’s the connection between CKUGA and AARP, you ask? “The Campus Kitchens Project embodies the exact kind of work we wanted to support with Drive to End Hunger,” said AARP Foundation president Jo Ann Jenkins. “By engaging students to help collect, cook and deliver meals to older Americans in need, Campus Kitchens are not only helping put food on the table in the short term, but they’re also nurturing a new group of lifelong leaders who apply that passion and vision to helping others in their home communities after they graduate.”
The relationship between The Campus Kitchens Project and AARP Foundation is one that has empowered our Campus Kitchens, like CKUGA, to serve over 30,000 meals to older adults so far this year. What’s more, the partnership allows our students to develop engaging programs that will address the underlying root cases of senior hunger, such as isolation, reduced mobility and lack of access to healthy food.
A campfire, s’mores, oranges, cake mix and a little live music were the ingredients for the start of a great new partnership between the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University and Nature Up North, a community-based organization whose mission is to foster a deeper sense of appreciation for, and connection to, the North Country environment of New York.
Earlier this year, students at the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University (CKSLAW) surveyed their clients to form a better understanding of the types of programming they wanted to see. In doing so, the students discovered a trend: the senior citizens wanted to cook food, and they wanted to socialize while doing it.
In response, CKSLAW partnered with Nature Up North, an organization that was looking itself to become more accessible to and active within the North Country community. The organizations will work together to make outdoor programming (involving food, of course!) more accessible to CKSLAW’s older adult clients.
Their first event took place the evening of July 27 at a local nature center. About 25 of CKSLAW’s clients gathered around a campfire while several students showed them how to make cake in an orange over the fire. (And yes, they saved the orange pieces to use later!) Everyone enjoyed cakes, s’mores and live music while Nature Up North staff talked about future programming that might interest those that attended.
This event was made possible by a grant from The Campus Kitchens Project, which allowed CKSLAW to remain open over the summer for the first time ever. The funding came from a larger grant from AARP Foundation, which allowed 10 Campus Kitchens to increase their meal production and design new programmatic initiatives engaging older adult clients. These additional three months of operations meant that CKSLAW served nearly 700 more meals, engaged 15 new student volunteers and developed two more partnerships than they otherwise would have been able to.
The Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University’s unique partnership with Nature Up North is just one more example of how our students are implementing creative tactics in the fight against hunger.
Thirty-seven leaders from 19 Campus Kitchens around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. last week to participate in The Campus Kitchen Project’s annual Boot Camp, a three day training aimed at empowering student leaders to create innovative solutions to hunger.
While Campus Kitchen leaders spent lots of time learning ways to enhance the sustainability and programming of their operations, the biggest event of Boot Camp was cooking and serving The Campus Kitchen Project’s two millionth meal as a network. On the morning of Tuesday, August 6, our Campus Kitchen leaders gathered at the Campus Kitchen at Washington, D.C. to make baked chicken, roasted vegetables, salad, rice and blueberry peach cobbler for residents of Glover Park Village. While they prepared the meal, participants learned about food safety paperwork and its importance in all parts of the food recovery process, from food resourcing to serving. Chef Rock Harper from DC Central Kitchen demonstrated how to break down a chicken – something that many Campus Kitchens do around the holidays.
When the meal was complete, it was carried across the street to the Guy Mason Recreation Center, where Campus Kitchen leaders and residents of Glover Park Village shared an intergenerational meal. Also present were representatives from Sodexo, a long-time supporter of The Campus Kitchens Project, and Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s office.
The event was a huge milestone for these student leaders, who have delivered two million healthy meals to food insecure communities simply by using the resources already available on their campuses and in their communities. But at the same time, the event was decidedly not a celebration. The Campus Kitchens Project called the event “2 Million 2 Many” and used the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue of hunger. We know we can’t end hunger with food; and all of our leaders are committed to going beyond delivering meals to develop programs that address the underlying root causes of food insecurity.
For more pictures from the three days of Boot Camp, visit our set on Flickr.
a guest post by Mariah James, The Campus Kitchens Project intern
Prior to coming to The Campus Kitchens Project as an intern, I was very youth-focused. I saw, and still see, kids in terms of their potential to achieve. I placed a large amount of my time and energy into working with kids to support them in reaching their maximum potential. But as I began my internship, I gained greater insight into a group of individuals very different from kids but still deserving of the same attention: senior citizens.
The Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga College High School prepares and delivers 120 nutritious meals to seniors each week in addition to hosting a variety of events for their clients. As I delivered meals with the Gonzaga students every Tuesday and Friday and helped them coordinate a tasting event for their clients, I learned more about the older adult population and the challenges they face. Seniors are often isolated due to limited mobility, making it hard for them to physically access groceries. In addition, most are on a fixed income, which isn’t always enough money to cover all their expenses, especially the purchasing of healthy foods. Finally, many live alone and must cope with these problems by themselves.
Perhaps more importantly, I also learned more about the assets seniors bring to their communities: knowledge that I gained and watched the Gonzaga students gain as well. The clients taught the students patience, respect and general kindness towards others. When delivering meals, the students would wait a few extra minutes for their clients to come to the door, because they were aware that they might be slower to answer. The students would then chat with the seniors, who would inadvertently pass on some of their acquired knowledge and wisdom. For exampple: you need to give into your vices on occasion to make life a little sweeter (this statement was by a diabetic man whose vice is hot fudge sundaes).
As I got to know these older adults and witnessed these interactions, I came to realize their value in society and how I overlooked it. I arrived at The Campus Kitchens Project with hopes of returning to my school, Christopher Newport University, full of ideas to help start a Campus Kitchen. I now leave with a new respect for the elderly and a desire to make them focus of Christopher Newport’s future Campus Kitchen.
Mariah served as our intern for the last two months. She has been a great asset to The Campus Kitchens Project, spending lots of time helping us get ready for Boot Camp and the upcoming school year. She also spent many afternoons cooking and delivering meals with the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga College High School. Mariah, thanks for being a joy to work with, and best of luck back at school!