Student-Powered Hunger Relief

Campus Kitchens News

15 years developing student leaders to fight food waste & hunger

, October 3rd, 2016


The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is now on 54 high school and college campuses across the country. Just last year, student volunteers recovered over 1.3 million pounds of food. And, since 2001, student volunteers have prevented the waste of more than 6.1 million pounds of food to create 2.9 million meals. CKP teaches students to see wasted resources as a sustainable solution to community issues.

The first Campus Kitchen launched in 2001 at Saint Louis University. Since then, more than 50 schools have joined the growing national network, and more than 54,000 volunteers have passed through the program.

As an empowerment nonprofit that seeks to end hunger and food waste, 15 years of service alone is not a reason to celebrate. However, while the meals prepared by Campus Kitchen volunteers fight hunger today, the programs they create and the skills they develop address the underlying root causes of hunger in a way that fights hunger tomorrow. Through programming such as nutrition education classes, senior hunger outreach and community gardens, Campus Kitchens go beyond the meal to address access, isolation, and knowledge; key factors that perpetuate food insecurity. Fifteen years equipping student leaders with the tools and support to make a difference in their communities creates a lasting impact not just on the students, but on the future of food waste and food insecurity.

By learning how to recover food, plan meals, and run a community kitchen, student volunteers develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills that they will use long beyond their days in school. In a recent survey of committed student leaders, 95.8% agreed that the leadership skills they have acquired through the Campus Kitchens will make them more likely to find a job, and an equal number believe that volunteering with the Campus Kitchen will benefit their search for employment. What’s more, 100% of Campus Kitchen alumni and 97.2% of current students feel that they have contributed in a valuable way to their community.

This year, CKP seeks to engage even more students to cultivate the next generation of leaders. Join us in celebrating our 15 years of developing young leaders and raising individuals out of poverty by starting your own Campus Kitchen. To learn more about bringing our work to your school, visit

Feeding Our Future in 2016

, September 21st, 2016


As schools across the country start this fall, many children are reluctant to return to early morning classes and homework, but for others it means the months-awaited return of consistent, nutritious school meals. With classrooms and cafeterias closed for the summer, some children who had been getting two meals a day at school suddenly had very little on their plates. Over 22 million children receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but only 4 million children continue to receive meals during the summer.

In 1997, Sodexo launched Feeding Our Future to help close this gap and ensure children receive the nutritious meals they need. The program began in three cities (Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.) and served 25,000 meals in its first year. Feeding our Future has continued to expand, and this summer the program served 400,000 free summer meals in 23 cities across America. Since the inception of Feeding Our Future in 1997, Sodexo has provided over 5 million summer meals. Feeding Our Future is such a success due to the partnerships between Sodexo and local hunger relief organizations such as the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University (CKNU).

CKNU is one of the largest Campus Kitchens in the national network. Each summer, CKNU partners with Sodexo as part of the Feeding Our Future program in order to fill the summer nutrition gap in the greater Chicago area. This year, student and community volunteers dedicated over 600 hours to prepare 21,847 meals for 720 youth – a 21% increase from last summer. CKNU also provided breakfast to certain partner agencies for the first time this year. CKNU is excited to be a part of Feeding Our Future and to continue growing the summer meals program!

To learn how your organization can be involved, contact CKNU Coordinator, Samantha Warren at

To learn more about Sodexo and the Feeding Our Future program, visit


-  Sarah Benedict, Americorps VISTA, HFA Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps, the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University

Launching the 54th Campus Kitchen

, September 19th, 2016


Over 16% of Kentuckians are food insecure, which is over two percent higher than the national average. In Adair County, Kentucky, over 20% of children will face food insecurity. Seeing a large need for affordable food options, the students at Lindsey Wilson College started planning for a Campus Kitchen to serve the food insecure members of the community.

On Saturday, Lindsey Wilson joined The Campus Kitchens Project with the official launch of their own Campus Kitchen. The Campus Kitchen at Lindsey Wilson College (CKLWC) is the 54th Campus Kitchen to join the national network.

CKLWC is sponsored by the school’s Bonner Program, which provides scholarships to students in exchange for weekly commitment to intensive and meaningful service with a local community organization. With support from its self-operated dining services, CKLWC will begin by conducting daily food recovery shifts at the school cafeteria. Student leaders will also recover food from the community garden, a local pizzeria, and a local Mexican restaurant. CKWLC will deliver 20 to 40 meals to individuals referred by the Family Resource Center and elderly day care programs, with hopes of expanding their community reach soon.

During CKLWC’s launch, student volunteers recovered 70 pounds of prepared food from dining and 30 pounds of fresh produce from the campus garden and made 23 meals to deliver to individual clients in the community.

Lindsey Wilson participated in a national launch grant video competition to start their own Campus Kitchen in March 2016. After rallying thousands of votes from their supporters and winning a $5,000 grant sponsored by AARP Foundation, we’re thrilled to welcome the Campus Kitchen at Lindsey Wilson to our growing network!

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

Good Culture Partnership

, September 9th, 2016

The Campus Kitchens Project and good culture® partnership will help us all eat good things


Campus Kitchens has partnered up with good culture for the new school year to continue creating even more meals and fighting hunger. Each time you purchase a cup of good culture, 1% of that sale goes to help The Campus Kitchens Project.

The Campus Kitchens Project empowers students to fight hunger and food waste in their communities by recovering food from dining halls and creating balanced and nutritious meals. In this past school year at 53 Campus Kitchens, student volunteers recovered over 1.3 million pounds of food and created nearly 350,000 meals.

During the semester, a steady stream of student volunteers contribute to these efforts; however, during the summer break it becomes more challenging for student-led programs to sustain their critical work. In fact, summer is a time when the need is highest, as students who typically receive free or reduced price lunch in school are at risk of not receiving these meals while they’re out of the classroom.

Our Campus Kitchens have built relationships with their community volunteers to help fill this gap and remain open during the summer. Across the country, volunteers from 32 Campus Kitchens stayed at their school, making sure their Campus Kitchens were still recovering food, cooking healthy meals and delivering to their clients. And they have had an astounding impact throughout the summer months.

In June and July, over 2,200 volunteers served more than 9,700 hours with their local Campus Kitchen. During this time, volunteers recovered 151,570 pounds of food, and transformed it into 65,780 nutritious meals. These meals were then served to more than 1,500 clients in the surrounding communities at almost 300 partner agencies. Of these meals served, over 24,000 meals were distributed to youth clients.

Not only did our Campus Kitchens work hard to provide the meals their clients need, but they also went beyond the meal to address the root causes of hunger in their communities. Student leaders at the Campus Kitchen at Troy University hosted a backpack program, which provides weekend meals to children to address food insecurity at home. And student leaders from the Campus Kitchen at the University of Georgia hosted a Food Waste Fiasco event, in which local organizations gathered to discuss solutions to food waste in the community.

Thanks to our new partners at good culture, we’ll be sharing best practices, resources and trainings to help ensure all of our Campus Kitchens are able to keep running year-round. good culture is the maker of Organic Cottage Cheese made with real ingredients, no additives, promotes good health and tastes great. We love good culture’s philosophy: if you eat good things, and surround yourself with good, you’ll feel good. We’re proud of our students for their commitment to fighting hunger in their communities no matter what the season, and we’re thankful to have good culture to help make this happen.

Dumpster Diving: A Food Waste Fiasco

, September 7th, 2016

img_1149The idea to bring food activist Rob Greenfield to Athens, Georgia came from the Campus Kitchen at UGA partner agency, the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA). The AmeriCorps VISTA who works at ACCA met Rob while living in California and learned of his biking tour across the United States. Rob is a food waste activist and the creator of The Food Waste Fiasco, a campaign that strives to end food waste and hunger in the US. Rob might be most well known in the food waste community for dumpster diving, which is the act of retrieving perfectly edible food from grocery store dumpsters. Feeling inspired by Rob’s work, the Campus Kitchen at UGA (CKUGA) and ACCA decided to work together to create a Food Waste Fiasco Event to draw attention to food waste in the Athens community.

With only about a month to pull the event together, CKUGA staff and volunteers were able to put up posters around town, send out press releases and emails, plug the event to a local NPR station, and utilized our student volunteers to share our Facebook event with their networks. We also hosted the event on campus in order to capture student attendees.

Rob Greenfield presented as the keynote speaker, sharing experiences in food recovery and what organizations and people can do to encourage grocery stores to donate instead of dump food. During the event, a local non-profit panel also presented. After CKUGA partnered on an event similar to this, we knew we wanted to invite local organizations to share what they were doing to help solve some of the issues related to food waste and hunger. Event attendees who wanted to do something about these issues were able to learn more about these local organizations and their volunteer opportunities.

CKUGA was happy to provid a meal for the 120 attendees. The meals were sourced from grocery store surplus and farms, in which CKUGA student volunteers had previously recovered.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the event was having the opportunity to dumpster dive. Campus Kitchen students went with Rob to 10 different grocery stores to dumpster dive. Some grocery stores in particular had the largest hauls of edible food, making everyone wonder if there was an opportunity for food recovery in the future. In a sense, dumpster diving served as a bit of research to see which stores could potentially give excess food to those in need instead of the trash. Rob’s stories of dumpster diving have shed light on food waste and hunger in America and CKGUA is excited to have participated in such an informative and fun event.

This blog post was written by Kaeli Evans, AmeriCorps VISTA member, the Campus Kitchen at The University of Georgia.

To learn more about the Campus Kitchen at UGA click here.

Apply Today to be a VISTA

, August 24th, 2016


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 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


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

Ugly Carrots

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.

CKP Twitter CKP Facebook Donate Now