Student-Powered Hunger Relief

Campus Kitchens News

Apply Today to be a VISTA

, August 24th, 2016

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CKP is hiring! If you’re passionate about ending hunger and food waste, eliminating food deserts, or any other food/hunger-related issue, we’ve got jobs for you! In partnership with Hunger Free America’s Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps, we are recruiting 8 AmeriCorps VISTA positions at the following Campus Kitchen locations:

Baldwin Wallace University – Berea, Ohio

Baylor University – Waco, Texas

Gettysburg College – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Lee University – Cleveland, Tennessee

Minnesota State University, Mankato – Mankato, Minnesota

Troy University – Troy, Alabama

University of Kentucky – Lexingon, Kentucky

Virginia Tech – Blacksburg, Virginia

Please email Laura Toscano at  ltoscano@campuskitchens.org if you are interested in applying. Please include which location you are interested in. Applications are due by September 1st.

Studying on an Empty Stomach

, August 10th, 2016

New Reports Indicate High Levels of Food Insecurity on College Campuses

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For four in ten students in the University of California system, the question of where their next meal is coming from often surpasses what test they will be studying for that night. New data from a historic survey of University of California (UC) students brings light to an issue that often goes under reported in food security circles – hunger on college campus. This is the largest survey ever conducted on food insecurity on college campus, with nearly 9,000 students surveyed. The results show that access to sufficient nutritious food is not always a guarantee, with 19% of respondents reporting that they went hungry at some point. An additional 23% of students said they could afford to eat, but lacked access or resources to balanced and nutritious meals.

How can any student be expected to focus on their studies when they are questioning where their next meal will come from? Hunger leads to many negative outcomes, especially for students who need to focus on their school work in order to succeed. Food insecurity can affect a student’s ability to focus, in turn impairing academic performance. Hunger can also lead to obesity, anxiety, and even depression. Furthermore, common anti-hunger resources, like SNAP, become unavailable to full time students, as qualification requirements stipulate that a recipient must actively be looking for employment.

All of these maladies can have severe and long lasting implications on an individual’s health, not to mention the effect they could have on grades – diminishing their chances of academic success. According to the survey results, nearly half of undergraduates in the University of California system reported having problems with food at some time. A third of those people indicated that their academic success had been impacted by that hunger. Furthermore, GPA’s for those who experienced problems with food were lower than their counterparts who don’t worry about food. Clearly, future success is being curtailed by food insecurity.

Fortunately, since the conclusion of the study, the UC system has made strides to address on campus hunger. Each UC school has been given roughly $75,000 to develop programs to combat food insecurity. Several schools have created food pantries dedicated to serving students, while others have instituted programs allowing meal swipes to be transferred to those in need. UC Berkeley has started an innovative program to teach students how to cook healthy meals on a tight budget. In addition, the school has been developing “mobile kitchens” to increase access for those living in dorms where cooking space can be hard to come by. UCLA is working with local farms to sell unused produce to students at reduced cost.

These programs from the UC system are commendable, but further support for these students is needed. Universities are often times regarded as bastions of wealth and success, but it is important to remember that there are many students across the nation who are experiencing this kind of hardship, not just those in California. While philanthropies and activists seek to address hunger in children, adults, and seniors, it would be wise not to forget that there are other populations that may be in need.

If you are interested in starting a Campus Kitchen at a UC school, click here to get started.

The full report can be found here, and offers resourceful information for any college student or administrator concerned with food security on campus.

We’re Hungry, despite the Recovery

, July 21st, 2016

For most Americans, the economic downturn widely known as the “Great Recession,” which began in 2007, feels much more recent than almost a decade old. Though unemployment is down, our economy is growing, and stocks have reached record highs, some 48 million Americans currently experiencing food insecurity may feel left behind.

In the years after the recession, the amount of American households experiencing food insecurity rose from 11% to almost 15%. This meant that families often didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. Obviously, this is problematic. Hungry workers are less efficient, hungry children are distracted in school, and hungry families become stressed and irritable, often relying on cheap, unhealthy food to keep their stomachs full. These things damper the ability of a society to succeed, holding the country back from reaching its full potential.

While the economy as a whole has recovered, many Americans have not reaped the benefits. Wages have remained stagnant for many workers, and levels of food insecurity have remained. Millions of Americans do not always know where their next meal will come from. Critics will say that the situation is improving, pointing out that enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which replaced food stamps, is down, dropping by 4.2 million people since 2012. Lower participation, however, does not always equate to progress.

Much of this reduction is driven by a variety of changes to SNAP eligibility requirements that are largely intended to get people out of the program, but not necessarily through reducing food insecurity. Several changes that have been implemented in different states include work requirements, stipulations stating a recipient of SNAP must be employed or in a job training program to receive benefits, time limits, where a recipient cannot receive benefits for longer than an allotted time (adults without dependents can only receive snap for three months every three years), and drug tests for individuals seeking benefits.

Unfortunately, while these changes may be palatable to politicians seeking to free up room in state budgets, they are ill founded. In hard economic times, when jobs may be hard to come by, requiring food insecure individuals to be employed creates a barrier preventing those that are suffering to get access to the resources they need. Furthermore, time limits can harm families that are experiencing long term unemployment and poverty, the very people who need help most. Finally, statistics have shown that drug testing potential recipients has almost no benefits, rarely finding anyone who tests positive. Missouri spent over $300,000 testing 40,000 welfare applicants, finding only 48 tested positive for drugs. Clearly, these developments are deeply flawed.

We need to ensure that those most in need are fed. How can we expect children to grow, workers to strive for better opportunities, and families to thrive if they are hungry and concerned with where their next meal comes from. Social programs can be reined in, but only if the problem they are meant to solve is declining as well. Even though the economy has shown signs of improving, support is still necessary to ensure that no one is left behind.

 

Ugly Facts About Imperfect Produce

, July 14th, 2016

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How pretty does your plate have to look? A report by National Resources Defense Council suggests that up to 24% of fruits and vegetables are discarded before even reaching the store – often due to imperfections in shape, size and color.  An exact total is hard to come by, but research suggests that blemished or aesthetically imperfect food is a major driver of food waste. Indeed, the largest component of US landfills is wasted food. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the discarded food was composed of scraps and leftovers that have gone bad, but in many cases this food has never even reached consumers. Instead, it was rejected by producers because many retailers refuse to purchase produce that looks anything less than perfect.

All this waste takes a huge toll on producers who have no choice but to discard blemished food, or feed it to livestock instead of taking it to market. Misshapen potatoes and slightly scarred fruits are tossed aside because they simply will not sell. Farmers interviewed by The Guardian reported that throwing away or feeding livestock a quarter of their crops that don’t meet market standards for beauty is normal. One grower reported that they are able to fill a truck with 22,000 pounds of unsellable tomatoes every forty minutes during harvest. Sometimes, food is left to rot in the fields where it is grown. Even the most careful farmers have to throw away huge portions of their crop due to growing conditions and weather that distorts how the produce looks. The food is unmarketable, but completely edible.

Imperfect food that is thrown away greatly damages the environment. Water, land, and other inputs are wasted if the food is not eaten. Globally, it is estimated that 60 trillion gallons of water are wasted each year due to food waste. Furthermore, the fruits and vegetables that are disposed of in landfills or incinerators release methane, a greenhouse gas that traps significantly more heat than carbon dioxide. Indeed, food waste is responsible for 8% of global climate pollution, a higher percentage than most developed nations.

This is a huge problem. Perfectly nutritious and edible food, albeit potentially aesthetically displeasing, is wasted at the same time as some 48 million Americans are experiencing food insecurity. This waste could be easily leveraged as a resource to feed families that don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. The lack of access to a huge amount of perfectly edible food is a tremendous injustice.

A solution isn’t hard to imagine. Producers could sell their wares at a discounted rate to stores willing to sell imperfect produce. This would allow families to buy healthy food at cheaper prices, boosting both personal and community health and allowing them to stretch their budgets further.  This solution would also help reduce food waste, aiding the environment by conserving resources and preventing the release of greenhouse gasses. Everyone stands to benefit. It’s a win-win-win.

Fortunately for us, consumers are beginning to realize the opportunity to reduce food waste and feed our nation by utilizing “ugly” produce.  Social media campaigns have been launched to try and change the stigma around unattractive produce – letting people know that a small bruise or blemish doesn’t mean that a fruit is bad for you. In fact, there is some evidence indicating that marred fruit may have nutritional benefits that prettier products may lack. We need stores to start stocking imperfect produce. Doing so will help farmers, consumers, and the world. Some grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, have started selling imperfect produce in limited stores. Programs like these need to be expanded, and a greater range of food retailers need to take up the cause. Groceries will receive benefits as well. Stores in Europe that began selling imperfect fruits and vegetables see increased traffic and sales. For an industry that has thin profit margins, this could be a leg up over the competition. There is no good reason that so much food should go to waste. We need to embrace “Ugly” food, and in turn feed the world.

This twitter campaign is celebrates “ugly” produce! Look it up and post your own pictures celebrating imperfect fruits and veggies!

 

Fixing Food Waste: An Economic No Brainer

, July 1st, 2016

Where there is waste, there are opportunities to make and save money.  Food waste is no exception.

Research done by ReFED, an organization that uses economic analysis to determine the viability of various solutions to food waste, indicates that there is around $10 billion of economic value to be gained from reducing food waste, as well as $1.9 billion in business profit potential. Many of these solutions are common sense, easily implemented fixes to our current food system. A few of the 28 methods ReFED recommends result in enormous financial benefits. These include:

  • Standardized Date Labeling (Currently being discussed in Congress!)
  • Consumer Education Campaigns
  • Packaging Adjustment to Reduce Residual Waste
  • Donation maximization Regulations and Liability Education
  • Improved Cold Chain Management
  • Produce Specifications (Accepting off-grade “ugly” produce)

Businesses and consumers serve to gain immensely from implementing broad changes to our food system. On the production side, reducing food waste would mean that money is not being used to produce and ship food that will not be sold or will go bad before reaching the market. For consumers, implementing changes ensure that their grocery budgets are not being wasted on food that passes passing an arbitrary “sell by” date or comes in sizes too large to be eaten in a reasonable amount of time before expiration.

Simply put, food waste has an environmental and social impact that is both inefficient and costly. It is not only necessary, but also most likely profitable for corporations and households to use a combination of the many solutions put forward by ReFED to reduce their food waste. For social-entrepreneurs interested in this issue, developing solutions may be an excellent opportunity to capitalize on this economic niche.

Corporations pursue efficiency relentlessly, seeking out ways to use technology and production techniques to cut costs and improve their operations. Households do too. From turning off the lights when leaving a room to controlling the thermostat, everyone is concerned about saving some money here and there by reducing waste. Why shouldn’t this thriftiness apply to food as well? There is certainly an enormous amount of money to be saved.

 

For more on the business aspect of food waste, check here.

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Follow China’s lead.

, June 24th, 2016

It may come as a surprise to learn that livestock production is a major contributor to global emissions of greenhouse gasses. In fact, around 14 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission totals can be traced to the meat and dairy industry – this is roughly equivalent to the amount of GHG’s emitted from tailpipes of cars and trucks across the globe.

These staggeringly high emissions from livestock production are a result of a variety of factors. For example, more resources are required to produce livestock than any other crops. Higher amounts of feed, land, and shelter are needed to produce one pound of meat than one pound of grain. This is because animals require high amounts of feed in order to grow to sizes where they can be sent to market. Livestock also constantly emit gasses through the creation of manure – releasing high amounts of methane into the atmosphere. In fact, according to the FAO, livestock production accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 53 percent of nitrous oxide emissions.

Recently, China has sought to reduce meat consumption by writing diet guidelines where meat products take up a smaller part of the plate. This is in part an effort to address a rise in obesity, diabetes, and other diet related illnesses in the country. It will also try to curb demand for meat in a country where consumption is expected to be triple that of the United States by 2030. If Chinese citizens follow the government’s dietary advice, global agricultural emissions would drop 12 percent as supply of meat falls with demand. Global totals would fall by 1.5 percent. This reduction would be roughly equivalent to the entire footprint of France and Belgium combined.

The impact of meat production on greenhouse gas emissions sheds light on the power we all have within our own diets. Shifting our tastes and preferences away from meat products (especially red meat) will not only have health benefits, but will also dramatically decrease ones environmental impact. It is not necessary to be a vegetarian to see benefits. Whittling down portions or giving up meat just one or two days a week can have an enormous impact on a person’s carbon footprint. There are many ways that households can address their environmental impact, from choosing what cars they drive to recycling and composting habits. Changing up one’s diet is an effective and potentially tasty way to make a difference.

For more information check out Vox’s article here.

 

Congressional Food Fight: Getting to Know Current Food Legislation

, June 15th, 2016

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2016 has seen the advent of two groundbreaking bills that seek to remedy one of the most pressing issues of our time, food waste. Sponsored by Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act seek to curb food waste and ensure that what cannot be curbed is rerouted into food recovery networks. Organizations like The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP), food policy advocates, and consumers at large stand to gain from such legislation.

The Food Recovery Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that tries to combat food waste in several ways. It targets consumers, schools, farms, grocery stores, restaurants, and the federal government itself. Four must know pieces of the bill include:

  • Awareness campaigns centered on informing people that current “sell-by” dates on food packaging are determined by manufacturer quality standards, and not scientific research.
  • Expansion of current legislation giving tax deductions to businesses that donate food to organizations serving the food insecure (like Campus Kitchens!).
  • Creation of an Office of Food Recovery dedicated to measuring food waste and implementing food recovery programs.
  • Support of various food waste-to-energy programs such as those that turn food waste into biofuels.

The Food Date Labeling Act bolsters the strength of the Food Recovery Act. It seeks to create a uniform national date labeling system with the intention of preventing waste. Creating standards that unify the language and meaning of food labels will reduce confusion, simplify regulation, and boost efficiency in our food system. Consumers will be able to reduce food waste and curb spending on unused food. The bill also allows food to be sold after a quality date passes, allowing edible food to avoid the landfill, and instead ending up on consumer plates.

On Wednesday, May 25th, the House Agriculture Committee held its first full hearing concerning the two pieces of legislation, and CKP was in attendance. After the hearing, CKP joined other food recovery focused organizations like Misfit Juice, Food Recovery Network, MEANS database, and the US Department of Agriculture at the Food Waste Fair on the Hill. The Food Waste Fair helped educate hill staffers and congressmen and women on the issues of food waste and food insecurity. Many politicians were eager to learn more about the issues and what organizations do to prevent food waste.

We hope events like the Food Waste Fair will bring even more support from policy advocates for both bills. Incentivizing donations, understanding the nature of food waste, and preventing edible food from ending up in the landfill will not only improve food security but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions stemming from food waste. American consumers, as well as organizations like The Campus Kitchens Project can only benefit from their enactment.

-Jonah Mackay, CKP Summer Intern

 

For more information, visit Congressman Pingree’s web page.

To help end food waste on your college campus, learn how to start a Campus Kitchen here!

Westtown School becomes 53rd Campus Kitchen

, May 26th, 2016

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Just two short months ago, Westtown School participated in a national launch grant video competition to start their own Campus Kitchen. After rallying thousands of votes from their supporters and winning a $5,000 grant from AARP, the students and faculty at Westtown School have been working to finalize their planning.

Today, Westtown School joins CKP with the official launch of their own Campus Kitchen. The Campus Kitchen at Westtown School will become the 53rd Campus Kitchen – and the fourth high school – to join the national network.

With support from its self-operated dining services, the Campus Kitchen at Westtown will begin by conducting weekly food recovery shifts at the school cafeteria and delivering approximately 25 meals a week. The school’s nutritionist will provide monthly cooking demonstrations to meal recipients of healthy and easy recipes.

Westtown will deliver meals to CityTeam, a nonprofit providing food and social services to local residents in need. Students will also deliver meals to West Chester Area Senior Center, a local nonprofit that aids senior citizens.  During the fall season, students plan to work with a local farmer to recover and deliver fresh produce and fresh fruit from on campus cherry trees, which will be planted during the Campus Kitchen launch event.

Matt Schnarr, CKP’s Expansion and Partnerships Manager is spending the next couple of days in Chester, PA sharing best practices and equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to run an effective community-based organization. We’re thrilled to welcome the Campus Kitchen at Westtown to our growing network, as they help us prevent even more food from going to waste this year!

To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school, check out our Campus Kitchen Planner.

Welcoming FSU as 52nd Campus Kitchen

, May 11th, 2016

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In 2013, Fayetteville’s main grocery store closed, making the town one of the 171 food deserts in North Carolina. Recognizing the need for affordable and accessible food, FSU students started planning for a Campus Kitchen to serve low income families in the community. Earlier this year, students and faculty at FSU participated in our national launch grant video competition sponsored by CoBank. Students rallied supporters to vote for their video, helping them win a $5,000 grant to bring our program to their campus.

Today, Fayetteville State University joined CKP as the 52nd Campus Kitchen! FSU is the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in North Carolina and the second in the United States. The Campus Kitchen at Fayetteville State University (CKFSU) is the first HBCU to join the national network!

CKFSU is sponsored by the Department of Sociology within the College of Arts and Sciences. With support from dining service provider, Aramark, CKFSU will conduct food recovery shifts at on-campus cafeterias, as well as the Murchison Road Farmers Market, local restaurants, grocery stores, and community gardens.

Student volunteers will begin operations by delivering monthly meals and providing nutrition education to preschool children at the FSU Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). CKFSU will conduct cooking shifts at the ECLC kitchen as well as on-campus dining services.

Olivia Rogine, CKP’s Community Development Coordinator is spending the next couple of days in Fayetteville, NC sharing best practices and equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to run an effective community-based organization. We’re thrilled to welcome CKFSU to our growing network, as they help us prevent even more food from going to waste this year!

To learn more about bringing a Campus Kitchen to your school, check out our Campus Kitchen Planner or email orogine@campuskitchens.org.

Four Future Campus Kitchens

, May 9th, 2016

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The votes are in, and we are thrilled to welcome four future Campus Kitchens! From May 2 to 9, Augustana College, Campbell University, Casper College, and the University of Nebraska, Omaha competed to see who could rally the most votes to win a grant sponsored by Sodexo Foundation to start their own Campus Kitchen.

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Thousands of votes were cast from students, alumni, school staff and supporters. Each school ultimately won a grant to start their own Campus Kitchen. Check out the winners below to see their total votes and why these schools are starting a Campus Kitchen!

Campbell University – 4,572
Augustana College – 3,951
Casper College – 2,634

Campbell University, the school with the most votes, is excited to launch a Campus Kitchen so the students can help the 53% of residents in Harnett County that are battling with food insecurity.

The students at Augustana College are interested in starting a Campus Kitchen to help combat on campus hunger and provide fresh and affordable food to residents in their county, which is labeled as a food desert.

Casper College, our third place winner, recognizes the environmental impact of food waste and wants to use a Campus Kitchen to get that food into the community and away from the trash can.

Students at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, our final contestant, work with Youth Emergency Services (YES), which helps over 300 homeless youth every night in Omaha. These students know a Campus Kitchen could consistently provide food to YES and the homeless youth in their community.

While their reasons for wanting to start a Campus Kitchen may vary, these schools are all committed to ending hunger and food waste. Congratulations to our winners! We are so looking forward to adding new communities of hunger fighters to our growing network.

The four schools qualified for this competition through our online Campus Kitchen Planner, which provides step-by-step guidance in setting up our program. If you are interested in joining our hunger-fighting movement, check out our upcoming grant opportunities to learn how you can secure funding to bring this program to your campus.

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