Students on the University of Georgia campus are working with the Campus Kitchen Project to help provide meals to those who suffer from hunger in the Athens-Clarke County area. These students are collecting food that would go to waste otherwise to help complete their mission.Why It’s Newsworthy: According to the United States Census Bureau, Athens-Clarke County has 35.5% of its residents in poverty. Most poverty-stricken areas have trouble providing themselves with proper nutrition. A student run organization working to help combat these needs could help many people in the area.
On the University of Georgia campus, there is a student-led initiative to help with hunger needs in the Athens area.
The University of Georgia Campus Kitchen provides meals weekly to people and families who have trouble providing themselves with the proper nutrition.
The University of Georgia Office of Service-Learning began housing the Campus Kitchen in 2012. The UGA Campus Kitchen falls under the Campus Kitchen Project, which has programs on 65 campuses with 25 colleges and universities in the process of having their own kitchen.
Each semester, the kitchen serves about 300 to 400 people in the Athens area.
A problem that the kitchen has seen is that senior citizens are the ones who face the most problems when it comes to hunger.
According to Nirav Ilango, a senior at UGA and Internal Relations Coordinator for Campus Kitchen, “We have a really big senior isolation issue in our country.”
Many of the kitchen’s clients are homebound due to lack of resources or health-related issues.
The kitchen has drivers that deliver the meals to these people throughout the week.
According to Heather Street, a member of Senior Hunger AmeriCorps, about one in five seniors in the Athens are food insecure. Also, in the state of Georgia altogether, out of 100 seniors who are food insecure only five receive delivered meals.
With roughly 13,300 seniors in Athens-Clark County, around 2,660 of them are food insecure. The Campus Kitchen is only able to help about 15 percent of these seniors.
Though the Campus Kitchen is only able to help a small percentage of the seniors in need, they are working to grow the number of meals they can provide.
The Campus Kitchen is also looking to cut back on food waste. About one-third of the food in the United States is wasted.
The kitchen collects their food through a process they call food recovery. They receive donated food from grocery stores that is near its expiration date and will most likely be thrown out. Then they take the food and store it to be cooked the upcoming week.
The number of people the kitchen has provided meals with has expanded over the years as they grow the sources they are able to bring their food in from. They have been able to add sources like Ugarden and Athens Fresh Market.
“The more poundage we bring each week, the more people we are able to serve,” Ilango says.
Adding more resources has allowed the kitchen to expand its clientele to reach nontraditional families. The most common form they see are grandparents raising their grandchildren.
The Campus Kitchen finds its clients through various community agencies who refer them to the kitchen.
Ilango says the UGA kitchen alone has served about 80,000 meals since 2012 with roughly 15,000 hours of service from their volunteers.
Per semester the kitchen has about 40 shift leaders who are in charge of each cooking shift with volunteers who provide assistance under them.
The shift leaders create a meal plan based off the items that they have donated to them. Then it takes about two hours for the shift leaders and volunteers to complete the prep and cooking.
After joining the Campus Kitchen, Ilango has become more conscience of the food waste in his life and tries to cut back. He believes that it is important to embody the mission of the organization in which you are a participant.
Kaitlyn Brandon is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.