Each Campus Kitchen is an active, vital part of their city, suburb or small town. Every community faces a complex set of issues surrounding hunger, and your Campus Kitchen can develop programs to address its most pressing needs. As Campus Kitchen leaders, you’ll have the unique opportunity to bring nonprofits, service agencies, community members and students into the one coalition to fight hunger.
Research the needs in your community, as well as the services available and use these questions to begin to focus on your community assets and challenges.
- What causes poverty in your community?
- What are the key food security issues in your community?
- What are the obstacles the low-income families/seniors/youth/homeless face?
- What kind of programming exists that confronts food insecurity?
- What kind of programming is lacking?
Where to start
Hopefully your sponsoring office already has relationships with agencies and organizations in the area. They can help you brainstorm possible connections, make recommendations and connect you with folks who are already at work. It will also be important to take a look at emergency food systems and identify the gaps in services. Consider food banks, food pantries, community kitchens, food rescue programs, senior services meals, Meals on Wheels and soup kitchens.
You can also approach your service office on campus and ask to talk with them about their other programs that currently serve the community in any capacity to attempt to piggy-back off their services (i.e. if your school runs a youth mentoring program that works with a local youth agency, you can ask to approach them about receiving meals through your Campus Kitchen). In general, it is easier to approach community partners that already have a connection with and a positive image of your school.
Services that may exist in your community (and that your school may already work with) include: shelters (emergency or transitional), rehabilitation facilities, employment counselors, after-school programs for at-risk youth, community centers, low-income housing and case managers or social workers.
Remember! Campus Kitchens use food as a tool to strengthen their communities. They do not compete with similar programs or duplicate existing efforts. Think about the unique resources your Campus Kitchen will contribute, but remember that collaboration will be a crucial part of your ability to make an impact in your community. The community assessment tool will help you learn about your community, better understand the challenges that your community confronts and connect you to the organizations that are already working on these issues.
Start making connections! Connections with partner agencies are often the most fulfilling part of working at a Campus Kitchen. Set up initial meetings with community organizations in order to get to know their work and start building relationships.
Ask questions. Don’t offer solutions.
- Who do you serve? How often? Where do your meals come from?
- What barriers do you face in serving clients? What barriers do your clients face?
- Who do you wish you could accommodate?
Use words like community kitchen, in-need populations, and empowerment, not words like charity, needy or soup kitchen. The language you use affects the work you do and the way others respond.