Student-run community kitchen program planned for Market Square

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    Students’ unwanted chicken and mashed potatoes at Market Square could soon be dinner for the hungry of Tarrant County.

    Melissa Gruver, coordinator for community involvement, said the Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning is working with the Student Government Association to research implementing a Campus Kitchens program at the university. She said the program is designed to put unused food to use in the community while at the same time equipping students with leadership and organizational skills.

    According to the Campus Kitchens Web site, the program uses existing resources to meet local hunger needs and empowers students to make a difference in their communities.

    Gruver said the program can be implemented in several different ways. One tier of the program allows students to take unused food from cafeterias and either transport it at its proper temperature to community kitchens or safely cool it and then transport it to community kitchens. The Tarrant Area Food Bank is Fort Worth’s locally designated community kitchen.

    Only food that has not been put out can be recycled for Campus Kitchens, said Abbey Brokos, SGA Dining Services committee chair.

    “We have extra food that we can use,” Brokos said. “It’s a natural progression to be wise stewards of the food we have and just use it to bless the community.”

    Another tier of the program trains students in food preparation and gives them the opportunity to teach low-income community members how to prepare food, which then gets donated to community kitchens, Gruver said.

    “We’re helping people in the community develop skills so they can get a better job,” Brokos said. “And students are learning the whole leadership experience of managing an organization.”

    Craig Allen, director of Housing and Residence Life, said a third tier allows students to store and prepare food at the university specifically for community kitchens.

    Campus Kitchens is currently in 20 schools across the country, but only Baylor University has the program in Texas. Seven of the 20 schools use Sodexo as their food service provider, Brokos said. The program is completely student-run with the support of universities and food service providers.

    Campus Kitchens is still in the beginning stages at the university. The House of Student Representatives passed a resolution supporting research into implementing the program at the university Feb. 23.

    Gruver said representatives from national Campus Kitchens will conduct a feasibility study at the university to determine if there is potential to successfully implement the program.

    In addition, Brokos said the Dining Services committee is gauging student interest. Campus Kitchens requires universities to commit to a minimum of three years, she said.

    Allen said he supports the program, but his main concern is its sustainability.

    “If I support the program, I need to know that students are involved in this for the long term,” Allen said. “Some shelter or organization will depend on us for three years to provide meals to people who need them. That’s not something we can take lightly.”

    Allen said he wants to make sure students are committed to the program and that Sodexo or university staff members will not have to run it.

    “That’s not what the program is designed for,” Allen said. “It’s designed for students to take an active role in community service.”

    Brokos said Dining Services is considering proposing the integration of Campus Kitchens into an academic class to ensure the continuation of the program.

    Gruver said she hopes implementing a Campus Kitchens program here would encourage students to get more involved in the community.

    “It’s really getting students interested in the issue of hunger and what it looks like practically in Tarrant County,” Gruver said. “I’m excited about them not just being efficient and using this leftover food for a better cause but also seeing the face that comes along with it.”

    Watch the TCU News Now community kitchen report.