Campus Kitchen Volunteers Reroute Food Waste

Kathleen Shannon

The Campus Kitchens Project is a U.S.-based organization that inspires student volunteers from high schools, colleges, and universities to coordinate with campus kitchens to recover food waste and transform it into healthy meals for the community. The project aims to strengthen hungry bodies, empower entrepreneurial minds, and build a generation of community-minded people.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Tyler Tripp, Community Engagement Manager, at the Campus Kitchens Project.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Tyler Tripp (TT): Founded in 2001, The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is a national organization that empowers student volunteers to fight hunger in their communities and seeks to inspire American youth and college students to develop sustainable food systems. We partner with high schools, colleges, and universities to share on-campus kitchen space, recover potential cafeteria food waste, and engage students as volunteers who prepare and deliver meals to the community. By taking the initiative to run a community kitchen, students develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills, as well as develop a commitment to serve their community that they will carry with them into future careers. Each Campus Kitchen takes food beyond just mealtimes, utilizing it as a tool to promote poverty solutions, implement garden initiatives, participate in nutrition education, and convene food policy events.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

TT: The CKP is most proud of the positive impact each Campus Kitchen has had on its local community. Last year, The CKP engaged 19,363 student volunteers who dedicated 74,674 volunteer hours to recover 939,034 pounds of food and prepare 271,967 nutritious meals. These meals were delivered to 344 community partner organizations, which serve 8,509 clients, thereby adding US$1,256,980 in economic value by providing meals and extra food. And while one could say our work is student-powered hunger relief, we’re also using hunger relief to empower students. Nine out of ten CKP volunteers are more likely to address food insecurity in their community after graduation. Ninety-five percent of CKP volunteers say they have acquired skills that make them more likely to find a job: 98 percent are more able to identify with the situation of the people we serve, and the same percentage of students feel more confident in their leadership abilities.

FT: What are your goals for this year and beyond?

TT: The CKP empowers student leaders to manage an innovative and entrepreneurial nonprofit program on their high school or college campuses. Our goal for 2015 and beyond is to put the task of starting that nonprofit initiative in the hands of our student leaders and continue to grow our program to more campuses. Using our online Campus Kitchen planner, students can log in on our website and identify all the steps needed to start a Campus Kitchen at their schools. Another goal of The CKP is to continue building effective programs nationwide. In partnership with our funders, we collect the most promising practices and programs from across our network and offer resources and grant opportunities to help established Campus Kitchens implement proven solutions that address the underlying root causes of hunger.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

TT: Food waste and hunger are two problems with one solution: support local organizations like the CKP, which ensures no food goes to waste while people are hungry by transforming extra food into healthy, balanced meals for those that need it most.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

TT: Our program is active on 45 campuses and growing rapidly. You can find us in action on campuses large and small, rural and urban, colleges and high schools. Come volunteer with us at a Campus Kitchen near you, or help get a Campus Kitchen started at your school.

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.