What can volunteering with the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) do for you? It can be a way to meet people on campus, hang out with friends, or beef up that resume. But with graduation season upon us and our students leaving for summer break, we decided to ask the question, “What have you taken away from your time with Campus Kitchens?” Working with your local Campus Kitchen can also give you a greater sense of community (both on and off campus); give you the tools to be a leader in your field; expose you to new ideas about nutrition, philanthropy, and social enterprise; and maybe even change your career path. Not too bad for a few hours of cooking.
It’s easy to feel like you’re in a bubble while living on a college campus. But Campus Kitchen volunteers are able to get out into their community and serve their neighbors. Molly Bulman, a graduating senior at the College of William and Mary, worked with the Campus Kitchen at William and Mary (CKWM) to “break through to connect with our clients” – a step that was needed to successfully reach and serve the town. “I began to see the need for human connection that goes hand-in-hand with any other kind of service. Once we reached a certain comfort level with our clients and our children we were able to make a difference,” Bulman said. By volunteering through CKWM, she and other volunteers were able to break down barriers between college and client and truly be a part of the community.
Other CKP volunteers have developed different outlooks on the role businesses need to play in society. CKP and DC Central Kitchen founder and president Robert Egger believes that businesses “can be philanthropy in and of themselves” – that nonprofits need to act like businesses and businesses have a social responsibility. That lesson stuck with Saint Louis University senior Lauren Ziegler. The Campus Kitchen at Saint Louis University (CKSLU) “has definitely changed my view of business,” Ziegler said, and her time volunteering with CKSLU has “really carried over to my studies and plans for my future.”
But she’s not the only student who has left a Campus Kitchen with an altered career path. Many volunteers have decided to continue their service by looking for employment with nonprofits. Shiri Yadlin, a volunteer with the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) and a member of the class of 2012, hopes to continue to work with a nonprofit that serves the homeless. “My work with the Campus Kitchen has definitely helped me see that I want service to be a big part of my life in the future,” Yadlin said.
Megan Crowe graduated from Gettysburg College in 2010, but her work with the Campus Kitchen at Gettysburg (CKGC) also influenced her career. A health sciences major, most of her classmates went into clinical or research positions, but Crowe says, “because of my work with CKGC I knew I wanted to go into a field where I would be working to better the community.” This led her to serve as an AmeriCorps member with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program where she led nutrition education classes to give low income individuals the skills to create healthy meals while sticking to a budget.
By serving with their local Campus Kitchen, these students have gained more than a few volunteer hours or a line on their resume. They have learned the importance of community involvement and social responsibility. Whether they choose to work with a nonprofit or make a career in the corporate world, they will always have the skills that they developed in the Kitchen.