Campus Kitchens Project Gives Back to Local Community

Every year Americans waste 29 million tons of food. A group of Auburn students is working to eliminate this waste by putting the food in the hands of people who need it. The Campus Kitchens Project gets food that has been prepared in campus dining facilities but is not served; the group resources, repackages, and delivers it to underserved people in the community.

Campus Kitchens is a national project of D.C. Central Kitchens. The mission of the program is to use service as a tool to: strengthen bodiesby using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs in our community; empower mindsby providing leadership and service learning opportunities to students, and educational benefits to adults, seniors, children, and families in need; and build communitiesby fostering a new generation of community-minded adults through resourceful and mutually beneficial partnerships among students, social service agencies, businesses, and schools.

Campus Kitchens got its start at Auburn in a Hunger Capstone Course, taught by visiting professor Douglas Coutts as part of the hunger studies minor. Students in the course selected the project to study during class and to consider the feasibility of establishing a Campus Kitchen at Auburn. After completing the course, the students applied for and received a charter and grant from the national office in Washington D.C. to establish Auburn’s Campus Kitchen.

Campus Kitchens is sponsored by the Office of Public Service, receives guidance and support from the College of Human Sciences, and receives operational support from Sodexo and Chartwells. Emily Scammell, president of Auburn’s Campus Kitchens says the support has been critical to the success of the program. “We are preparing meals in the arena, and we are going to start using Chartwell’s cooking facility as well. Both Sodexo and Chartwells provide us with food and cooking space, as well as guidance.” Scammell added, “They are always so welcoming and helpful.”

On Thursday nights, volunteers cook and prepare food to serve the following day. On Friday, they transport and serve the food to 90 people at the Auburn United Methodist Church food pantry and 80 people at the East Alabama Services for the Elderly (EASE) House. In addition, the group has recently started serving 20 elderly members of the Porter Housing Development on Wednesday afternoons. They also take large quantities of food to His Place, a local shelter, on Friday afternoons.

This fall, Campus Kitchens got into the Thanksgiving spirit with Spaghetti-Palooza, where they served over 300 meals of home-cooked spaghetti in a week. Campus Kitchens also participated in Hunger Week, a week of hunger awareness events sponsored by the Committee of 19. That week, they served over 600 meals in the community, setting a new personal record for meals served in a week.

Scammell says, “The highlight of getting to serve is just that - getting to serve. You wouldn’t imagine the level of hunger we have in our very own Auburn community, and we are grateful that we are able to help. Interacting with those that we serve humbles us in every way possible. If we can feed people while teaching our volunteers about the importance of food security, then our job is done!”

In January, Campus Kitchens will add an additional service by providing volunteers to start an after school backpack program at two local schools. This program, Blessings in a Backpack, sends a bag of food home with kids on Fridays, sometimes providing the recipients with their only weekend food. Former Auburn University golfer Jason Dufner and his wife Amanda are sponsoring the project.

Campus Kitchens is always in need of volunteers to help serve and organizations to donate food. If you’re interested in working with this group, please contact Christopher Patterson at ctp0013@auburn.edu.

Last Updated: November 11, 2013