Campus Kitchen at Minnesota State, a national initiative aimed at addressing food insecurity in the community, is now closed.
Campus Kitchen is a volunteer-based program that has been running since 2005. According to the program’s social media pages, for the last seven years Campus Kitchen’s 744 volunteers during that time: logged 7,859 service hours, collected 94,820 pounds of food, created 13,000 meals and delivered an additional 66,893 pounds of food to partners in the community.
According to Graduate Advisor for Community Engagement Crystal Watts, after the national initiative was discontinued, Campus Kitchen at MSU continued operating on its own, all thanks to motivated students.
“It was possible because at the time students were passionate about it and having all of those shifts available for students to meet their volunteer needs was also very desirable for students,” said Watts.
Campus Kitchen provided training for student volunteers, where they learned about a variety of skills and topics, including leadership, nutrition and food insecurity.
“It was also focused on helping students learn and understand the importance of volunteerism and how it’s not just a performative act, but they actually learn some of the systems that are in place that make these programs possible,” said Watts.
Sai Meghana Lakku is a student at MSU who has been volunteering for Campus Kitchen since Fall 2021. She said that she learned a lot about food insecurity and nutrition from her time with Campus Kitchen.
“I even did meal preparations during my shifts. This included cooking and nutrition skills,” said Lakku. “For example, MyPlace Mankato is serving kids, so we have to make sure they have a balanced diet of fruits and veggies and then some proteins, too.”
Volunteers harvested products in the morning to bring them to the Campus Kitchen, where they cooked meals. Meals were then distributed to partners in the community.
“We got food from different organizations or restaurants like Olive Garden Red Lobster, Chipotle, and ECHO Food Shelf,” said Lakku. “And then we collected all those in the morning.”
“Students would go out and connect with local partner restaurants and other partners to pick up the food and come back,” said Watts. “They processed it, and then other chefs would take that food and either defrost it and make a meal plan out of it, or they would, according to the meal plan, start portioning those things out.”
In spite of Campus Kitchen’s closure, students have other resources available for them to fight food insecurity.
“Now with Campus Kitchen being gone, students still have five days a week access to both the Maverick Food Pantry and the Campus Cupboard,” said Watts. “And the Campus Cupboard has been able to expand.”
Header photo: Campus Kitchen at Minnesota State University has been running since 2005 but is now coming to a close. Over the last seven years the kitchen had 744 volunteers and created thousands of meals for partners in the community. (Brice Nyiringabo/The Reporter)
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