Last month, Laura Belazis, our associate director of training and evaluation, participated in the SNAP Challenge, spending one week eating on a SNAP benefit-limited budget. In recognition of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, here are her reflections from the challenge.
In October I participated in DC Hunger Solutions’ SNAP Challenge, which aims to highlight the struggles faced by too many throughout our region who can’t afford the food they need. The average SNAP benefit is $33 for one week, which is about $1.57 per person, per meal. This meant my husband and I had $66 to shop for everything we would eat for seven days.
I love to eat, and I love hearty meals full of bright colors and local ingredients that are both delicious and pack a nutritional punch. I knew it would take some careful planning to put together 21 meals for two people with only $66. To start with, I ruled out meat. Then to save time I decided to make four servings for each dinner, so there would be plenty left over for lunch the next day. Finally, my husband offered to make wonderful multigrain bread for the week.
For breakfasts I planned on plain Greek yogurt with pears and honey for our weekdays, and eggs on our multigrain toast for the weekend, which came to $0.99 for each of us per day. I also needed to make sure that we got in a couple servings of fruit, with some snacks to carry us between meals: four apples, a pound and a half of clementines and six bananas cost $7.64.
To make all of this happen I had to think carefully about where to shop to get the best ingredients at the lowest prices. I went to Trader Joe’s for bananas, clementines, starches, and butternut squash (over 4lbs and only $2!), a local co-op for the multigrain bread ingredients (the bulk bins let us buy exactly the amount we needed), and a mobile market for everything else. The mobile market is the only place I know in D.C. where I can get several grocery bags full of local produce and farm fresh eggs for only $20. And if I really had been using SNAP benefits, I could have taken advantage of their Bonus Bucks program to double my SNAP dollars.
We met my goal of a healthy and delicious SNAP week, but it took a lot of careful planning. It also made me truly appreciate many things that I take for granted:
#5 – I have a fully equipped kitchen.
#4 – On an ordinary week if I want to eat out, treat myself to a pastry or go to happy hour with friends, I have that luxury without having to check my budget and without having to make difficult trade-offs.
#3 – We have enough time and freezer space to keep our veggie scraps and make our own sauces and stocks, which are healthier than store-bought, and certainly less expensive too.
#2 – I live in a neighborhood where healthy and affordable produce is abundant.
#1 – My parents taught me to cook, and gave me both an arsenal of culinary knowledge and a love of good food.
My main takeaway from the SNAP Challenge is that living on a SNAP budget takes time, food access and knowledge to provide for your family, and the energy to keep it up week after week. Fortunately, programs like the 42 Campus Kitchens in communities across the country are making access to nutritional food easier. But could I have made it through the week if I had to work long hours at several jobs to make ends meet? Or if I had health issues or dietary restrictions? I don’t know, but having completed the SNAP Challenge, I have a better understanding now of the significant challenges faced by too many families trying to get by paycheck to paycheck, relying on their SNAP benefits to put food on the table. I hope that more people take the SNAP Challenge to gain insight into the difficulties faced by members of our community, and that with more knowledge and insight, together we can come together to solve hunger.
Emory University prides itself on serving local and sustainable food. Their dining halls are full of produce from area farms, and they even host a farmers market on campus. But when that locally sourced food isn’t eaten, it’s either thrown away or composted. Knowing there was a better solution, Emory students have chosen to reduce food waste on campus and hunger in the Atlanta community by launching a Campus Kitchen.
The Campus Kitchen at Emory University (CKEmory) is our 42nd Campus Kitchen and third in the state of Georgia. They will use the demonstration kitchen in the basement of Few Hall to cook and package the food they recover from Emory’s Sodexo-run dining services. The meals they create will be delivered to local organizations, including Mercy Community Church, Intown Collaborative Ministries, Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, The Open Door Community and Meals On Wheels Atlanta. Truly a collaborative effort, CKEmory brings together partners from Volunteer Emory, Greek Life, Emory Dining, Sodexo, Office of Sustainability, local food banks, shelters and countless students.
During their first cooking shift last night, Emory students whipped up homemade vegetable soup with couscous and a zucchini pasta casserole – 120 meals in total for hungry Atlantans.
According to the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, food waste should be used to feed hungry people before it is turned into compost. Emory’s on-campus eateries are already willing to work with students to recover food to be used for healthy meals, and with the start of CKEmory, this is now possible.
To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school and to qualify for a $5,000 launch grant opportunity, visit our Campus Kitchen Planner.
Just last month, students and staff at the University of Kentucky participated in our latest launch grant video competition and won $5,000 to start a Campus Kitchen that will serve older adults. With that funding in hand, their coordination with dining services, creation of partnerships with community organizations and volunteer recruitment on campus has come to fruition: this afternoon, the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky officially opens.
The Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky (CKUK) is our 41st Campus Kitchen and the first to open in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They will operate out of the Erikson Hall Food Lab in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and initially recover food that would have otherwise gone to waste from Aramark-run UK Dining. This food will then be used to create nutritious meals for clients with the Lexington Senior Center, Catholic Action Center and Hope Center. Soon, the student leaders with CKUK estimate they will be able to provide several hundred Lexingtonians with a meal each week. The Campus Kitchen is sponsored by the University of Kentucky Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
University of Kentucky is one of five schools that participated in the older adult-focused Campus Kitchen launch grant video competition sponsored by AARP Foundation in mid-October. A group of campus representatives created a video (watch it at the top of this post) explaining why their community would benefit from a Campus Kitchen and rallied thousands of supporters to vote for their entry. By the end of the competition, University of Kentucky’s submission received more than 3,400 votes, winning them a $5,000 grant to bring our program to their campus.
CKUK aims to serve older adults ages 50-59, many of whom are ineligible for other senior-focused services because they do not meet those age requirements. Nearly 9 million older Americans are at risk of hunger, a staggering 79 percent increase over the last 10 years. Kentucky is 18 in the nation for senior hunger, and over 8 percent of the state’s seniors do not know from where their next meal will come.
Matt, our expansion and partnerships manager, and Andrea, our DC-based AmeriCorps VISTA, are spending a couple of days in Lexington sharing best practices with the student leaders who will be running the Campus Kitchen. This afternoon, they will host a reception ceremony in Erikson Hall to officially launch the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky.
To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school and to qualify for our next $5,000 grant opportunity, visit our Campus Kitchen Planner.
After months of planning, lots of emails and phone calls, and endless enthusiasm, we are thrilled to welcome Troy University to The Campus Kitchens Project network!
The Campus Kitchen at Troy University (CKTroy) is our 40th Campus Kitchen and the second to open in the state of Alabama. They will conduct cooking shifts at Trojan Dining, the main dining hall on campus, and will initially recover food from on-campus dining halls – with support from Sodexo-run Troy University Dining Services. This food will then be used to create nutritious meals for children participating in the Pike County Head Start program. The Campus Kitchen is sponsored by Troy’s Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement.
Matt, our expansion and partnerships manager, is spending half of this week in Troy sharing best practices with the student leaders who will be running the Campus Kitchen, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to run an effective community-based organization. This afternoon, student leaders and volunteers will conduct the Campus Kitchen’s first cooking shift and prepare 50 meals for their new clients.
To make this happen, students and staff at Troy University utilized our online Campus Kitchen Planner, which provides a step-by-step process for bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school. Entire planning teams can have access to their school’s Planner, which shows all of the tasks necessary to start a Campus Kitchen. Each task can be assigned to an individual and then checked off a list when it’s complete!
To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school, visit our Campus Kitchen Planner.
Andrea Lindsay is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the NYCCAH Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps serving at The Campus Kitchens Project for one year.
While Campus Kitchens around the country were celebrating Food Day all last week, The Campus Kitchens Project national office in DC had the opportunity to participate in the Food Day Harvest Festival hosted by the National Geographic Museum on October 25. This free event featured tastings, chef demos, a farmers market, hands-on activities and more.
With the help of two wonderful volunteers, our staff shared the food group jeopardy game from our Building Blocks for Healthy Kids nutrition education curriculum with visitors young and old. The prize for participation? Fruit and veggie face paint! We also used our table to share resources for kids, parents and teachers—from coloring pages to recipes and family activities—to support the Food Day priority of promoting healthier diets for all.
We were proud to be in the same room as many local and national partners who are finding and sharing innovative ways to support community health and wellness from the ground up. From high school students demonstrating the difference between white and whole-wheat bread to the kid who answered all of our Jeopardy questions and then proposed some of his own, it was clear that everyone has something to contribute to the conversation about healthy eating. A grandmother took home MyPlate coloring pages for her grandchildren. Teachers told us about their school garden programs and collected recipes to try with their students. A young girl having her face painted specified that she liked the curved kind of eggplant.
These types of interactions are what make us truly excited about the conversations that Food Day and our “beyond the meal” programs promote. When we share information about healthy eating—whether at our national office or at Campus Kitchens around the country—we often find that we learn just as much as we teach. Food Day and the local partners who made the Harvest Festival such a success help us to show that improving our food system starts with empowering individuals to share their knowledge and skills with a broader community. Whether we’re fighting hunger by using food that would otherwise have gone to waste or combating obesity by helping kids to make healthy choices, we can find solutions to some of our greatest problems by utilizing resources that already exist in our communities.
Last Thursday, Campus Kitchens across the country held a variety of events and activities in honor of Food Day, an annual nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies. The events looked different on each campus, but their purpose was the same: to educate other students on food issues and on how Campus Kitchens are addressing those issues.
Here are just a few of the events that took place:
- The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University hosted a table where others could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and learn more about the Campus Kitchen and Food Day. Their friends and partners in the fight against waste and hunger in the community, Points for a Purpose, joined them for sandwich making.
- All week long, Washington University in St. Louis supported a canned food drive for the Campus Kitchen, proceeds from which will be used to serve children and homeless women in St. Louis.
- The Campus Kitchen at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay hosted their annual No Waste Breakfast to highlight the importance of reducing food waste, and using food that might otherwise be thrown away to feed people.
- At Baylor University, Campus Kitchen leaders asked students to pick up a bag, fill it with healthy donations and return it to be delivered to a local agency.
- The Campus Kitchen at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore partnered with other local agencies to prepare their a healthy, balanced meal for more than 100 food insecure individuals.
Finally, here in DC, our national office participated in the Harvest Festival, DC’s celebration of Food Day 2014. Stay tuned to learn more about that event later this week!
We’re proud to call Food Day one of our great partners in our work to improve our food system. And at the end of the day, advocating for sustainable food systems and raising awareness for hunger and food waste is just one way our Campus Kitchens are going beyond the meal to make an impact in their communities.
From October 14 to October 21, five schools rallied thousands of votes from their students, alumni, staff and supporters to compete for a start-up grant to bring our program to their campus. The votes are in, and we are excited to announce the five winners of our latest launch grant video competition:
- University of Kentucky – 3,434 votes
- University of Wisconsin-Madison - 2,452 votes
- Walsh University - 1,970 votes
These three schools have each won a $5,000 grant sponsored by AARP Foundation to start their own Campus Kitchen by spring 2015. Five schools in all qualified for this competition through our new Campus Kitchen Planner, which provides step-by-step guidance to any group interested in bringing our program to their campus. After completing several steps in the planner, each competing school submitted a video explaining why their community would benefit from a Campus Kitchen. Then, over the past 7 days, the competitors mobilized their supporters to vote for their videos once per day per device.
A big thanks to those who voted, and congratulations to our winners!
We need you to join the MOOvement as we expand our innovative hunger-fighting program to college campuses across the country.
In the last academic year, 36 Campus Kitchens across the country rescued more than 939,034 pounds of food and served 271,967 meals to 8,509 clients. Just imagine how we could fight food waste and hunger in the United States if our network included 100 schools.
We need your support to grow our national network and increase our impact in communities across the country. If we receive support from you and 149 other donors by Sunday, September 28, our friends at National Dairy Council will add $5,000 to your contributions.
Will you get us one step closer to releasing $5,000 from National Dairy Council by donating $10, $20 or $36 today?
Thank you for your support, and stay tuned all week for stories of other people who’ve decided to #jointheMOOvement.
Nine months ago, students and staff at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., participated in our first-ever launch grant video competition and won $5,000 to start a Campus Kitchen. Since then, they’ve been making improvements to their kitchen, developing partnerships with area nonprofits and recruiting others to volunteer. This afternoon, the Campus Kitchen at Saint Peter’s University officially opens.
The Campus Kitchen at Saint Peter’s (CKSPU) is our 39th Campus Kitchen and the second to open in the state of New Jersey. They will operate out of the kitchen in St. Aedan’s: The Saint Peter’s University Church, and will initially recover food from on-campus dining halls – with support from Sodexo-run Saint Peter’s University Dining Services – and several local restaurants. This food will then be used to create nutritious meals for families and children who are also clients of the United Way and Hudson County Self-help Center. The Campus Kitchen is sponsored by Saint Peter’s Campus Ministry.
Saint Peter’s is one of seven universities that participated in the Campus Kitchen launch grant video competition sponsored by Sodexo Foundation earlier this year. A group of campus representatives created a video (watch it at the top of this post) explaining why their community would benefit from a Campus Kitchen and rallied thousands of supporters to vote for their entry. By the end of the competition, Saint Peter’s submission received more than 5,000 votes, winning them a $5,000 grant to bring our program to their campus.
Matt, our expansion and partnerships manager, is spending a couple of days in Jersey City sharing best practices with the student leaders who will be running the Campus Kitchen, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to run an effective community-based organization. This afternoon, student leaders and volunteers will conduct the Campus Kitchen’s first cooking shift and prepare 50 meals for their new clients.
To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school and to qualify for our next $5,000 grant opportunity, visit our Campus Kitchen planner.
It’s probably fair to say most college students packed their bags in May and left campus for the summer, heading home or off on a summer adventure. But this summer, student leaders from 26 Campus Kitchens – almost three quarters of our current schools – did not. Instead, they stayed at school, making sure their Campus Kitchens were still recovering food, cooking healthy meals and delivering to their clients.
From May to August, nearly 3,400 volunteers served more than 13,000 hours, rescuing 201,000 pounds of food, which was then used to create almost 74,000 meals. These meals were then served to almost 9,000 clients at 101 partner agencies.
Not only did our Campus Kitchens work hard to provide the meals their clients need, they continued to go beyond the meal to address the root causes of hunger in their communities. Student leaders at the Campus Kitchen at East Carolina University developed a nutrition education curriculum customized for students at two area Boys and Girls Club locations, teaching 120 elementary-aged children the importance of healthy eating. A student with the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University launched a sustainability group to facilitate conversations on food, transportation and energy among students and community members alike. And the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University hosted two fellow food waste fighters from Rotary First Harvest in Seattle who biked across America to raise awareness of food waste and hunger in the United States.
Hunger doesn’t take a summer break – and neither did these Campus Kitchens. We’re proud of our students for their commitment to fighting hunger in their communities no matter what the season. If you’d like to join them in the kitchen, check out current volunteer opportunities by visiting our “locations” page.