The Best Classroom on Campus is in the Kitchen

The Campus Kitchens Project
CKP Updates

Campus Kitchen at UVA partners with Local Food Hub of Charlottesville

, August 22nd, 2014

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by Laura Toscano, director of The Campus Kitchens Project

We know that hunger doesn’t take a summer break when our student volunteers are away from campus. This year, the Campus Kitchen at the University of Virginia (CKUVA) made an incredible leap: for the first time ever, they made sure the meals and friendly faces didn’t stop coming around to those in need during the summer.

It’s a challenge and a great opportunity. Summer is when most of our student volunteers are away from campus, but it’s also a time of need in the community. For instance, local kids who get free lunch at school are overwhelmingly at risk in the summer of not getting those meals at all. And with the right partnerships, a Campus Kitchen is poised to be a perfect solution to this issue, especially in a place like Charlottesville, where there is an incredible abundance of fresh local produce in the summer months.

As the director of The Campus Kitchens Project, I often wish I had the opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen at all of our locations nationwide, menu planning and chopping veggies and delivering meals alongside our volunteers. So this summer, I spent five weeks shadowing and volunteering with CKUVA as they achieved their goal of continuing their meal service over the summer for the very first time. This year, our national office worked with Ameriprise Financial to ensure that we could give a grant to three Campus Kitchens working toward this goal, and I was excited to see it in action.

CKUVA is a leader within the network when it comes to developing partnerships that enable them to provide scratch-cooked nutritious meals using fresh local produce.  Each week on Friday, they visit the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, volunteer and take home food that is past its selling point but still nutritious to use in client meals. I looked forward to this volunteer shift every week, and to the spontaneous meal planning that happened on the drive back with the mystery assortment of fruits and veggies.

One of our big goals this year is to create food access for those in need. With students able to commit some of that extra time towards preparation, we see Virginia-grown food ending up in the hands and stomachs of those who need it…In short, it makes sense to partner with Campus Kitchen because of the shared benefits–food gets to those in need, students learn about systems that reinforce the local economy, and we have valuable help with day-to-day activities each week. - Will Clark, Local Food Hub

The Local Food Hub is an innovator in its own right, and part of a growing Food Hub movement that also includes our very own DC Central Kitchen. According to the National Good Food Network, “a regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”

CKUVA is the first to partner with its regional Food Hub, but we know they won’t be the only one as this movement grows nationwide. We hope that as more Campus Kitchens turn toward incorporating seasonal, local produce in their meals, partnerships like these will make it easy, educational and fun for students to stick around and keep on cooking over the summer months.

Bike Against Hunger visits Campus Kitchen at Northwestern

, August 18th, 2014

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At The Campus Kitchens Project, we’re acutely aware of a huge paradox that exists in the United States: while 40 percent of the food produced in this country is never consumed, 1 in 6 Americans do not know where their next meal will come from. This conundrum is what motivates our student leaders to rescue food that would have otherwise gone to waste and use it to create healthy meals for hungry people. This summer, another food waste-fighting organization is raising awareness of this issue in a whole new way: they are biking across America.

Back in April, we had the pleasure of meeting Benjamin Rasmus of Rotary First Harvest (RFH) at our first-ever Food Waste & Hunger Summit. RFH works with farmers, truckers, volunteers and others to bring valuable skills and resources into hunger relief efforts in communities across Washington state.  This summer, Benjamin kicked off Bike Against Hunger, a new initiative aimed at raising awareness of food waste and hunger in the United States. And just last week, on Monday afternoon, the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University (CKNU) had the pleasure of hosting him as he stopped in Evanston, Ill.

All along his journey across America, Benjamin has been stopping by community organizations to witness their efforts to tackle food waste and hunger. At CKNU, Benjamin wanted to learn more about our scope of operations, and see exactly how we create more than 4,800 meals each month during the summer. So he pitched in, helping to build 50 individual meals consisting of tilapia, couscous and salad. And in return, CKNU volunteers and student leaders learned more about his adventure and just how their work fits into what’s being done across the country.

Thanks so much for making a pit stop at CKNU, Benjamin! We are honored to support your inspiring 10 week, 3,500 mile bike ride to raise national awareness for an issue so close to our hearts. Can’t wait to welcome you to Washington, DC next week!

photo from Bike Against Hunger website

Food as a tool: Campus Kitchen at Marquette supports local nonprofit

, July 17th, 2014

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Before she had ever heard of the Campus Kitchen at Marquette University, Donna Hietpas was up at 4:30 every morning, preparing food for the 12-15 women her nonprofit serves on any given day. Needless to say, the lack of sleep and being stretched so thin did not allow Donna the capacity to evaluate how her nonprofit could do more or work better. But now that the Campus Kitchen at Marquette (CKMU) has stepped in to help, Donna is getting a real night’s sleep, giving her the time and energy she needs to deepen relationships with her clients and thoughtfully evaluate her nonprofit’s work.

Donna is the director of Sister’s Program, a program of Milwaukee’s Benedict Center that reaches out to help women involved in prostitution and illegal drugs before they are arrested and caught up in the criminal justice system. While she has assistance from college interns and women who have gone through the program, Donna essentially runs Sister’s Program by herself. Just a few weeks ago, one of her interns asked Donna if she had ever heard of CKMU. Donna had not, and the student decided to make the connection, bringing a whole new definition to “student-powered hunger relief.” The student brought Amanda Parrell Kaczmarek, our staff coordinator of the Campus Kitchen at Marquette, over to Sister’s Program to meet Donna and to discuss ways they could partner together.

For just over a month now, CKMU has been whipping up healthy meals from food that would  have otherwise gone to waste for the Sister’s Program’s clients. They deliver meals twice a week, supplying enough food to feed every woman who walks through the doors to seek programs or services. The women are now eating yogurt and salads from a farmers market instead of consuming unhealthy, salty packaged goods. They are exposed to a richer variety of foods and actually have input into what they eat each day, giving them more ability to take charge of their own nutrition.

But perhaps more importantly, Donna now has the time she wants to step away from her clients and evaluate, research, think and plan, doing the things that will ultimately strengthen her program and the services it provides. Amanda can already see the difference:

She is a truly awesome person, and I am so happy that we are able to serve her program.  Every time we see her, she seems to get lighter and more energized.  And the women that she works with have been really pleased with the food. - Amanda Parrell Kaczmarek, CKMU coordinator

With this new partnership, students with the Campus Kitchen at Marquette are not only tackling food waste and hunger: they are stepping up to enhance another nonprofit’s ability to make a real difference in the lives of Milwaukee women.

Campus Kitchen at UDM strengthens summer meal operations

, July 3rd, 2014

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The Campus Kitchen at the University of Detroit Mercy (CKUDM) serves the same 36 clients every weekend. During the academic year, CKUDM relies on a steady stream of student volunteers to cook the would-be-wasted food donated by Sodexo, their dining service provider. But when school is out, so are the student volunteers – and so is the dining hall food. This summer, with support from Ameriprise Financial, the dedicated student leaders of CKUDM are strengthening their volunteer and food recovery efforts so their clients still receive the meals they need every weekend.

Recruiting student volunteers at UDM during the summer months is tricky, as many students have gone back home, and those who are still in town are working or taking summer classes. This summer, the student leaders of CKUDM have made a concerted effort to seek out volunteers from other organizations and institutions to support their operations. CKUDM has worked with a church across the street from campus to educate its members on their mission and encourage them to volunteer in the kitchen. In addition, many faculty and staff members volunteer over the summer – not only from UDM, but also from other area colleges. In fact, these efforts have been so successful, CKUDM recruits an average of three new volunteers every weekend.

And then there’s the matter of recovering food when dining halls go dark. In the past, CKUDM has spent valuable resources purchasing food so their meal operations wouldn’t cease. But at the beginning of this summer, CKUDM’s student leaders officially kicked off a new food donation partnership with the College for Creative Studies. The college donates fresh food at least once a week to the Campus Kitchen, significantly reducing the amount of food CKUDM must purchase during the summer to maintain their weekly meal operations.

We’re proud of the commitment these student leaders have shown to the mission and work of their Campus Kitchen. If you’re in Detroit this summer, you can get involved with their efforts to serve 36 clients each week by volunteering.

Three Campus Kitchens, 1,070 pounds of produce

, June 17th, 2014

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Fresh fruits and vegetables are critical for creating healthy meals for clients, though they are not always abundant in a Campus Kitchen. This year, thanks to the generous support of Clif Bar Family Foundation, three of our Campus Kitchens will be able to expand their gardening initiatives and harvest more produce than they did last year. By the time gardening season wraps up in the fall, the Campus Kitchens at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Gonzaga University and Marquette University will have harvested more than 1,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to incorporate into nutritious, balanced meals.

But that’s not the only product of these gardens: they’re also providing a hands-on learning environment for communities and nutrition education classes.

In Boston, students from the Dever-McCormack School have spent seven weeks learning about compost, the life cycle of plants, what plants need to grow, garden “friends and foes” and more in the Campus Kitchen at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s community garden. To wrap up their time learning in the garden, the students will get to create and eat salads full of the nutritious vegetables they’ve grown with their own hands.

In Spokane, the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University (CKGU) is growing no fewer than 16 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables for their clients. But soon, some of their clients will be able to grow their own produce: residents at the O’Malley Senior Center have access to a few barrel gardens in their courtyard, but the demand is far greater than the supply. This summer, CKGU will build several raised garden beds – ensuring they are accessible to clients in wheelchairs – for these older adults to plant in next spring.

In Milwaukee, the Campus Kitchen at Marquette University has taken on responsibility for ensuring the Marquette Community Garden is fully planted and well maintained all summer long. They’re partnering with other students and groups who also use their food-growing know-how to help others. One of those groups is the Physicians Assistants Program, whose students do clinical work with individuals at high risk of food insecurity. The group uses the skills they are learning in the garden to teach patients about nutrient-dense foods and how they could grow for themselves.

While these three Campus Kitchens are making an impact in their individual communities, they are also collaborating and sharing best practices. This summer, the Campus Kitchens at UMass Boston and Gonzaga will put their heads together to create a garden education curriculum (much like our existing nutrition education curriculum), using lessons and activities with proven success in their own gardens. When the curriculum is finished, all of our Campus Kitchens – not to mention any garden educator – will be able to use it to teach children how to grow the food their bodies need to thrive.

Thank you, Clif Bar Family Foundation, for investing in these growing gardens. We can’t wait to see just how much they will produce this summer – both in pounds and in knowledge.

St. Lawrence University student helps launch sustainability group

, June 5th, 2014

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Sean Morrisey just wrapped up his sophomore year at St. Lawrence University where he’s majoring in environmental science and English. In addition to being a full-time student, Sean is also on the leadership team for the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University. But that’s not the only leadership position Sean has taken on during his time in college: he recently helped launch the Canton Sustainability Committee, a group of students and community members interested in addressing issues related to food and agriculture, transportation, energy and housing.

Read more about Sean’s work with the Canton Sustainability Committee on the St. Lawrence University website.

We are always thrilled when students involved in a Campus Kitchen take on additional leadership roles in – and outside of – school. This year, 98 percent of our student leaders said they felt more confident in their leadership abilities because of their experience with a Campus Kitchen. That same survey showed that 95 percent of students felt the leadership abilities they developed would make them more likely to find a job post-graduation.

Our leadership development efforts don’t stop there. We work to empower the next generation of leaders to implement innovative models for combating hunger, developing food systems and helping communities help themselves – while they are in school and after. 92 percent of the student leaders we surveyed said they were more likely to become involved in efforts to address food insecurity in their communities after graduation.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, our Campus Kitchens are on track to recover thousands more pounds of food and serve hundreds more meals than in the previous year. But perhaps more importantly, the students leading these efforts are more able to reach into their communities and make a lasting difference.

Campus Kitchen at ECU develops nutrition education program

, May 28th, 2014

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The Campus Kitchen at East Carolina University has a reputation for making a positive impact in their campus community. In the 2013-2014 school year alone, they served more than 1,800 meals to 4 different client agencies. But serving meals is not the only thing at which the student leaders with the Campus Kitchen at ECU (CKECU) excel. Earlier this spring, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pitt County approached CKECU with a need: volunteers who would go beyond the meal and educate students on nutrition and healthy habits.

To meet this need, CKECU developed a custom six week program for the children, combining highlights from our Building Blocks for Healthy Kids curriculum and the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Healthy Habits curriculum. In all, 120 children at two Boys and Girls Club locations experienced the entire customized curriculum and were able to successfully recall what they had learned at the end of the program.

As they started developing their nutrition program, CKECU recruited and trained eight nutrition outreach coordinators, engaging six nutrition majors and four students who were new to the Campus Kitchen. These leaders were responsible not only for teaching twice a week, but also for developing lesson plans using the two curricula.

The program concluded during the week of May 5 with healthy banana splits and a game of “Food Group Jeopardy” – which can both be found in Lesson 4 of Building Blocks for Healthy Kids – for review.

But CKECU’s beyond the meal programming won’t stop there: this summer, they plan to teach their clients about healthy drink choices by using some of the 1,800 bottles of Dasani water donated through a Coca-Cola campaign on the ECU campus. Not only will students emphasize the importance of staying hydrated throughout the hot North Carolina summers, they will demonstrate just how much sugar and calories can be found in drinks other than water.

The Campus Kitchen at ECU will continue to operate throughout the summer thanks to support from Ameriprise Financial. You can get involved with their efforts to create 1,000 healthy meals in the next three months by volunteering while many of their students are away.

50 hours with the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern

, May 22nd, 2014

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The students at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, Mo., place a high value on service. In fact, at the end of their junior year, students complete a 50 hour community service internship at an organization to step outside of their comfort zones and learn about the needs in a particular community. This year, four of these students chose to pack their bags and spend 50 hours with the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University (CKNU).

Matt, Jordan, Riley and Chandler arrived at Northwestern on Monday morning and are staying through Friday afternoon. They’re putting in long days (yesterday, they worked from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.) providing the all-star student volunteer power needed to run a Campus Kitchen. These four can tell you that involves a whole lot more than cooking and delivering. So far, they have cleaned the pantry, taken inventory, made 290 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from scratch, cleaned CKNU’s reusable clamshell food containers, participated in every cooking shift, delivered meals and recovered food. In fact, on their very first morning, the boys accompanied Rebecca, our CKNU coordinator, on a food recovery shift where they picked up 70 pounds of food from Northwestern’s Sodexo-run dining halls and hauled it back to the CKNU kitchen. Once there, they learned how to properly bring the food down to a safe temperature for storing and how to complete our HAACP food safety paperwork.

So far, the four have enjoyed delivering meals to clients the most. They weren’t sure what to expect on their first meal delivery shift, but what they encountered were friendly people who were thrilled to chat with new volunteers. All told, Matt, Jordan, Riley and Chandler helped CKNU recover around 250 pounds of food and create 625 meals (plus all of those cookies). And as they consider where they might attend college in two years, Northwestern and its Campus Kitchen may be a contender: various CKNU leadership team members have given them tours and let them sit in on classes during their week on campus.

Thank you, Matt, Jordan, Riley and Chandler, for spending the week with CKNU. Your 50 hours have certainly made a difference in the kitchen and in the Evanston community.

Campus Kitchen grows with support of local organic grocer

, May 9th, 2014

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In a small commercial kitchen in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., shelves are overflowing with hundreds of pounds of fresh organic produce. Nearly every day, volunteers cart in more fresh food, sorting and dating boxes to ensure nothing is forgotten and left to rot. It’s thanks to the generosity of MOM’s Organic Market that shelf space is a hot commodity in St. Luke’s Mission Center, home to the Campus Kitchen at Washington, D.C.

Five or six times each week, a dozen or so retiree volunteers with the Campus Kitchen at Washington, D.C. (CKWDC) visit five of MOM’s 11 area stores to recover food that would have otherwise been thrown away. The organic produce and meat they pick up may be approaching the end of its shelf life or may have slight imperfections that render it unable to be sold, but with a quick turnaround and a few strategic slices of the knife, the food is ready to be eaten.

These crucial donations could not have come at a better time: since last December, the fresh produce MOM’s Organic Market stores donate to CKWDC has filled in for the lack of local produce the Campus Kitchen was able to recover from area farmers markets during the winter. Already in 2014, CKWDC has recovered 9,880 pounds of fresh food from MOM’s, enough to serve more than 1,300 healthy, scratch-cooked meals to Washington, D.C. residents. And the produce that CKWDC couldn’t use in time? Before it was too late, those items were sent off to the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga College High School, in turn improving the quality of their 120 weekly meals.

The generous, consistent donations from these MOM’s stores have enabled CKWDC to expand their capacity from cooking and delivering meals once a month to once a week. This time last year, CKWDC was serving around 200 clients on average each month. Now, they are serving about twice that many.

Learn more about how you can bring healthy produce to the hungry in your community by visiting our Campus Kitchen planner.

The Campus Kitchens Project comes to Green Bay

, May 2nd, 2014

Back in January, students and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay participated in our first-ever launch grant video competition and won $5,000 to start a Campus Kitchen. Since then, they’ve been finalizing operations plans, creating partnerships with other community organizations and recruiting excited volunteers. Tomorrow, the Campus Kitchen at UW-Green Bay will officially open.

The Campus Kitchen at UW-Green Bay (CKUWGB) is our 36th Campus Kitchen, the third in Wisconsin and the second to open in the University of Wisconsin system. They will operate out of the university’s dining services kitchen and initially recover food that would have otherwise gone to waste from A’viands campus dining service. This food will then be used to create nutritious meals for clients in the Green Bay community. CKUWGB will also partner with NEW Community Shelter, an emergency shelter serving adults experiencing homelessness. The Campus Kitchen is sponsored by UW-Green Bay’s office of Social Work Professional Programs.

UW-Green Bay 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, UW-Green Bay’s submission received nearly 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 Green Bay sharing best practices with the student leaders who will be running the Campus Kitchen. Tomorrow morning, their official launch event will take place at the nearby Fort Howard Apartments, where student leaders and volunteers will conduct a cooking shift and prepare meals for residents.

Read more about the addition of the Campus Kitchen at UW-Green Bay to our growing network in this press release.

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.

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