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Interview: Linda Kurtz of the Campus Kitchens Project

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The Campus Kitchens Projects seeks to end hunger in America and it starts with education and eliminating food waste (Campus Kitchens Project photo)

The Campus Kitchens Project seeks to end hunger in America (Campus Kitchens Project photo)

With school now underway across the country, here is a great social cause for students to get involved with. It’s called the Campus Kitchen Project. It’s about ending food waste, which can be the key to fighting hunger in America.

Linda Kurtz, the Online Community Engagement Manager, recently took time to talk to me about Campus Kitchens and how you can get involved.

What is a Campus Kitchen?

A Campus Kitchen is a campus-based, student-run organization where students transform unused food from dining halls, grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets into meals that are delivered to local agencies serving those in need. Campus Kitchens are part of the national organization The Campus Kitchens Project, which supports their development, growth and activities on high school and college campuses around the country.

How many schools are taking part?

As of last week, we are officially at 39 Campus Kitchens, with several more slated to launch this fall.

What are some examples of how colleges are able to recover food from a campus dining hall and bring it to those in need?

Most of our Campus Kitchens have wonderful partnerships with the dining service provider on their campuses, who allow them to recover food that would otherwise be thrown away (or maybe composted) and use that food to create healthy meals for those in need. We particularly have great relationships with Sodexo-run dining services, as they are very supportive of our students’ efforts to reduce waste and hunger. A great example of this is happening at the College of William and Mary, which has hosted the Campus Kitchen at William and Mary since 2007 (seven years this August!).

In the 2013-2014 academic year, the Campus Kitchen at William and Mary recovered 5,298 pounds of food and prepared 6,448 meals for clients in the Williamsburg, VA area. Just this week, they received a great donation of about 575 pounds of food from their Sodexo-run dining services. Sodexo employees actually helped transport the food to their kitchen, too!

The process tends to look like this: students arrange a pickup schedule at certain dining halls on whatever days they would like the Campus Kitchen volunteers to arrive. The students pick up the food (which is generally either prepared food that was never served or unprepared raw product) and bring it to the dining hall kitchen that they use for their cooking shifts. The students then process the food, store it and use it to create meals for their clients. Oftentimes the students will use the food they’ve recovered a day or two after it’s come in to the kitchen so they can plan a menu of balanced meals.

What are some of the ways a Campus Kitchen can partner with a local food pantry?

Several of our Campus Kitchens have developed relationships where their local food bank is a food donor and they are able to pick up food and incorporate that product into their meals. Also, many Campus Kitchens support (or are in the process of supporting) on-campus food pantries that serve hungry students at their schools. Oftentimes, this involves the Campus Kitchen stocking that pantry with non-perishable goods; other times, they prepare meals that students can pick up.

How would a student reading this go about joining Campus Kitchens?

We recently launched an online Campus Kitchen Planner that lays out the step by step process of bringing our program to any college campus. All a student needs to do is go to campuskitchens.org/start-a-kitchen and they can sign up to get access to a planner. And, if a student who indicates interest in starting a Campus Kitchen is from a school already in the planning process, we’re happy to connect that individual with the existing team.

Right now is an exciting time to consider joining our network, as we have three different $5,000 launch grant opportunities available to schools in the planning process (or interested in getting started!). Those grants are linked on the “start-a-kitchen” page.

Campus Kitchens is also up for a grant from the National Dairy Council. You can help them by joining the MOOvement campaign.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.