How We Do It
What is a Campus Kitchen?
Across the country, universities are teaming up with dining services and student leaders to build a more sustainable approach to food on campus. Here at The Campus Kitchens Project, we’ve figured out how to create a student-run kitchen that will keep food from going to waste, and turn it into nutritious meals for those who are struggling with food insecurity. In the process we are developing student leaders and empowering them to create programs that open pathways between college and community. It’s food recovery and so much more. It’s student-powered hunger relief.
Each Campus Kitchen has a few things in common, including a mission to recycle food, provide meals, educate and engage with the community, and provide leadership opportunities for students. The Campus Kitchen model is based on a few resources available in any community: donated food, shared kitchen space and students who want to make a difference. Each school tailors its Campus Kitchen to the specific needs of the campus and community using the following four components:
- Food recovery: Campus Kitchen volunteers pick up unused, quality food from campus dining providers, as well as from local grocery stores, food banks, farms and farmers’ markets. Trained volunteers cook and store the donations according to established food handling regulations. The federal Good Samaritan Act for Food Donations protects schools and food donors who participate in food recovery programs.
- Meal preparation: Using donated kitchen space during off hours, volunteers utilize the food donations to prepare balanced and nourishing meals. Often, Campus Kitchens are able to prepare meal boxes or backpacks with shelf stable items which allows clients to create meals on days when there is no delivery scheduled.
- Meal delivery: Volunteers deliver prepared meals to organizations as well as to low-income families and individuals. Often, volunteers stay to share conversations, education and sometimes a meal with recipients. This exchange provides valuable interaction for our recipients and greater understanding of poverty for students.
- Empowerment and education: Each Campus Kitchen engages in empowering education programs like culinary job training for unemployed or underemployed adults, healthy cooking classes for families and nutrition education for kids. Most Campus Kitchens are empowering their communities through the development of gardens and the use of the fresh produce grown. Some kitchens have even created their own farmers’ market, which accept SNAP (formerly food stamps) to provide the community with access to farm fresh products.