Introducing Home on the Plains, A One-Stop Center for Health & Wellness Support

In these unique times, staying safe means observing a number of safety and social distancing protocols. Times like these highlight our individual needs for connectivity and support. Maybe the support we need is a few non-perishable food items, a recipe for dining on a budget, a break away from today’s stresses through a documentary screening, or even a conversation with a new, friendly face. Whatever the need may be, this series will highlight multiple groups on campus who provide a variety of resources to students. Whether you are a new or returning Auburn student, this spot on the Office of Sustainability’s blogpost will introduce you to many incredible programs over the course of the semester. Initially, we will start with a program that describes both prior and current initiatives to address food insecurity awareness nationally.

The Universities Fighting World Hunger – Flagship Chapter (UFWH) is a student-led organization that arose from Auburn’s initial War on Hunger, originally established in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme in 2004. UFWH is committed to connecting both individuals and departments on Auburn’s campus in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The program takes an aerial view at the impact each segment of life can have in tackling both domestic and international concerns surrounding malnutrition and hunger.

Colorful logo of a fork, plate, and knife with the words "Universities Fighting World Hunger Auburn"
The Universities Fighting World Hunger logo.

Through a multidisciplinary stance, UFWH aims to incorporate all major departments and organizations on campus to work toward recognition of and action to prevent hunger. In doing so, the organization facilitates multiple fundraising and community service projects tailored to share valuable information that inspires each of us towards action. UFWH plays a vital role in broadcasting information about the need for food security-related initiatives on a college campus and encourages other students/faculty/staff to get involved. If you are looking to get involved with UFWH, head over to their AUInvolve page for more information!

Looking at the Universities Fighting World Hunger alone, we can already commend the efforts made annually to fight hunger. And this is just one program at Auburn that focuses on the health and wellbeing of the Auburn family as well as persons in the surrounding community. Highlighting these incredible organizations for their essential work is one thing, but this series will continue to share the pivotal work each group is doing on campus.

In Fall 2021, Auburn’s central campus will introduce Home on the Plains, where you can come and see each group in action! In collaboration with Tiger Dining, we are working to develop a space in Lupton Hall, where students, faculty, and staff can learn more about each group mentioned throughout this blog series. Whether a group will be running day to day operations distributing food to the community, aiding in the spread of information relating to food insecurity, providing cooking demonstrations for dorm-centered eating, or even communicating about an individual’s overall health and wellness, this is the space where you can find the resources you need. Make sure to stay tuned to learn more about programs that work to improve Auburn’s campus environment, as well as updates about Home on the Plains!

 

Post contributed by Alayna Priebe, Project Coordinator with Tiger Dining, V.P. of Communications with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University.

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An Active Player in the Fight against Food Insecurity: The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University: An Account from a Cherished Community Partner & General Operation Update

The logo for Campus Kitchens at Auburn University, with Samford Hall in Auburn as the background and a black and white image of a fork, knife, and spoon in the foreground.
The logo for Campus Kitchens at Auburn University.

In our current situation, food resources can be a necessity now more than ever. No one may know what may be going on in an individual’s life, but we can definitely work to provide as many resources as possible in case someone is in need. There are multiple resources on Auburn’s campus that address hunger-related topics, and The Campus Kitchen is a large player in overall hunger awareness. The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University (CKAU) is a student-led organization that functions to both mitigate food waste on campus as well as work in the larger fight against hunger in the surrounding Auburn-Opelika community. In collaboration with Campus Dining, volunteers are able to collect unserved foods from some of the dining halls and restaurants located on campus for packaging into individual nutritious meals. The Campus Kitchen partners with community organizations such as Esperanza House, Macon County Food Pantry, the Alabama Council for Human Resources, as well as Auburn Family Meals (to name a few) to distribute these meals to individuals in the surrounding community facing food insecurity. CKAU is currently functioning in Toomer Hall, located in the Hill, but will be moving to a more central location to enhance accessibility for our partners.

One of the Backpack International meals, with roast chicken, rice, and mixed steamed vegetables like carrots, peppers, squash, and onion.
A delivery meal packaged for Backpack International.

Though we are able to reduce the amount of food waste on campus, we would not be able to function fully without the amazing partnerships that we have with Auburn community members. Partnering with these organizations allows us to make a connection within the Auburn community by seeing first-hand how a few hours of service impact others. One particular partner that we are blessed to work with is Backpack International (BI). Starting in 2016, BI is focused on bringing about a spiritual connection through service. One of the main functions of the organization is to create backpacks full of school supplies and items for dissemination to children in Guyana during an annual “Christmas In July” Vacation Bible School Project. Not only does Oslyn Rodriguez, Backpack International’s founder and executive director, work tirelessly to ensure BI is able to provide children in Guyana with school materials, she also works to provide meals to her local community members.

Oslyn states, “Our involvement with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University has had a positive impact on our organization. Our partnership has enabled us to expand our services beyond providing backpacks and supplies to children in need. Our involvement with Campus Kitchen helps us fulfill a need for the entire family, not just the children who receive the backpacks. Most often, children whose parents/caregivers are struggling to provide school supplies, hygiene products, and other essentials are also battling food insecurity. This partnership also helps us provide meals for our often forgotten elderly population, many of whom are shut-in. And finally, our relationship with Campus Kitchen enables us to provide volunteer opportunities for retirees and volunteers who are looking for ways to serve in their local community. I am so thankful for Campus Kitchen of Auburn University.” We are beyond grateful to be able to work alongside partners, like Backpack International, who care so deeply about their fellow community members.

Despite the unprecedented times we are currently living in, we are still functioning to reduce food waste and serve as a delivery partner to the Auburn-Opelika area. Our volunteer operations look a little different from the past, but we are running nonetheless. We are currently operating shifts with a reduced number of volunteers, having a maximum of 2 people for pickup, delivery, and cleaning shifts as well as a maximum of 6 individuals present for packaging shifts. We feel that these reduced numbers can help to maintain social distancing measures. If you are familiar with our packaging space, we will spread out packaging operations across two tables and into the main room to maintain social distancing measures. Along with this, we will be requiring masks throughout the entirety of all shifts, as well as a clearance for volunteers through GuideSafe’s HealthCheck passport. We do ask that each individual take point on their health and wellness, so we are able to remain cautious of the health of all involved. We hope that through these safety measures, you will still be able to get some hands-on volunteer time with CKAU. If that’s not at your comfort level, we are also working on developing a virtual option for completing volunteer hours. Please don’t hesitate to send an email over to theckau@gmail.com for any additional questions!

All said, we would absolutely love to meet some new volunteers ready to get hands-on service working towards a food secure community. If you are interested, we do send updated information about CKAU and shifts available for volunteering each week through AUInvolve. We look forward to seeing you and as always, Fork Hunger! Be on the lookout for another piece detailing a community partner we are lucky to work with shortly!

 

Post contributed by Alayna Priebe, Project Coordinator with Tiger Dining, V.P. of Communications with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University.

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Tiger Dining and Campus Kitchens Partner to Reduce Food Waste

Post contributed by Katie Peters, Marketing Assistant, Tiger Dining

Tiger Dining seeks to handle the food served on campus in the most sustainable and responsible way possible, from the beginning to end of the food service process. Our associates are reminded during food preparation to reduce food waste with our “Waste Not” reduction program which allows our associates to track, measure and reduce the amount of food waste by placing any food scraps into measurable containers.

Through a five year partnership with The Campus Kitchens Project, any unused food is donated from venues across campus. It is then portioned into meals for local churches, missions, and food insecure people in our area. Campus Kitchen Projects averages about 200-250 meals every week which has a huge impact on the community and lowers the amount of food waste being transported to the landfill.

Student Volunteers at banquet
Student volunteers with Campus Kitchens pose with attendees of the annual banquet.

Tiger Dining also supports Campus Kitchen Projects with annual banquets for local residents of Assisted Living Facilities. Senior Executive Chef Emil says, “We enjoy giving them the opportunity to have a special night on campus with great food and fellowship.”

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Going Beyond the Meal to Break the Cycle

Post contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern

“Food alone will never end hunger.”

These words spoken by Mike Curtin, Chief Operating Officer of DC Central Kitchen and Alex Moore, Chief Development Officer of The Campus Kitchens Project, resonated with me over the three-day Boot Camp I attended in early August. Traveling to Washington, DC for the conference was an opportunity for myself and fellow student leader Ginny Lampkin to represent Auburn’s Campus Kitchen and learn more to expand our operations in the local community.

Kenzley and Ginny help out in an urban garden during the DC Central Kitchen Boot Camp

DC Central Kitchen is a national nonprofit organization working to end the cycle of poverty and hunger through various programs, such as culinary classes for unemployed individuals and development of grocery stores stocked with healthy options in food deserts. The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP), one of the programs under DC Central Kitchen, focuses more specifically on reducing food waste and ending food insecurity. This work is done in large part by CKP chapters in over 60 schools around the country. The Campus Kitchen at Auburn runs as an entirely student-led project where volunteers pickup food from campus dining halls, package that food into nutritious meals, and distribute the meals to more than 10 community organizations in the Auburn/Opelika area.

Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, the idea that ending hunger requires more than food is actually very true. In my time working with CKP, and especially at CKP Boot Camp this year, I’ve thought a lot about this idea and come to better understand the connection between poverty and hunger. While all aspects of CKP operations are important, and providing meals each day to those in need is making a big difference in the lives of those individuals, Mike Curtin’s statement that “No matter how many meals we serve today, people will still be hungry tomorrow,” speaks for itself. If we want to end the cycle of hunger and poverty, we have to move beyond the meal. Should we at CKP stop delivering meals or as a society stop giving out food in soup kitchens? Absolutely not. However, we need to move beyond food distribution to address a daily need, and also focus on solving the roots of the problem.

Auburn’s CKP has been focusing on moving beyond the meal through development of new programs, outreach events, and educational components. Last fall we hosted a film screening of “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” to educate the community about the billions of pounds of food thrown away each year. This year we will be partnering with East Alabama Services for the Elderly (EASE House) in a new initiative focusing on nutrition education and anti-isolation in the senior population. Our goal as a group has become larger than saving food from being thrown into the landfill by redistributing it. Ultimately, we want the work of CKP to do more than provide food to hungry people; we want to help break the cycle between poverty and hunger.

 

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Fighting Food Waste and Feeding People: More Than Just a Motto

Post contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern

Like many college students, I’m often told the importance of getting involved on campus in order to make connections and build a resume. Last year in early January, I thought about this advice and decided to take heed by searching AU Involve, Auburn’s online directory of all student organizations. I have always been passionate about the environment and sustainability, so I focused my search on these themes. While Auburn has many opportunities in this area, one group in particular caught my attention- The Campus Kitchens Project. I had never heard of the organization before but “fighting hunger and food waste” definitely seemed like a club I would be interested in. After attending a meeting and volunteering at a couple of weekly shifts, I could already see the positive impact made by Campus Kitchens and couldn’t wait to get more involved.

Photo of students packaging meals.
Students work together to package balanced meals for distribution in the community.

The Campus Kitchens Project focuses on eliminating food waste and fighting food insecurity by donating unserved food to community members in need. In the United States, 40% of food is wasted each year, while 1 in 6 people don’t know where their next meal will come from. The Campus Kitchens Project strives to fight these startling statistics in student-powered initiatives focused on strengthening bodies, empowering minds, and building communities. This academic year, 53 schools across the nation have a Campus Kitchens Project running, with about 28,700 student volunteers involved.

At Auburn, this program has been developed into a student-led group offering volunteer opportunities in the form of three different kinds of shifts. Each week over 70 volunteer slots are open in 29 total shifts, each of which is led by a shift leader. At pickup shifts we go to Tiger Dining kitchens and pick up any extra food they have, which is then used in packaging shifts to assemble nutritious meals. Delivery shifts are responsible for distributing the food collected in the form of meals or entire pans, depending on the need of each community partner. Currently Auburn collects food from 8 campus dining locations and donates to 14 community partners, such as Our House, His Place, Salvation Army, Harbor House, Esperanza House, and Meals on Wheels.

One of my favorite aspects of working with Campus Kitchens is being involved with other students from all over campus to make changes in our local community. In Lee County, 18% of people are food insecure and the work done by Campus Kitchens is striving to make a difference. The individuals and community partners we serve are extremely grateful for the food they receive, and I’m humbled to be able to help through my work with Campus Kitchens. Interacting with the community has been a highlight for me because I enjoy meeting new people and making a difference for them in any way possible. Because I have always been very environmentally focused, I also appreciate that we can decrease the amount of food being thrown into a landfill by picking up food from dining halls. I find it appalling how much food can be wasted, either from students’ plates or from the kitchens, so it’s encouraging to fight against this food waste. In 2016, we recovered 14,136 pounds of food and served 11,109 meals! Looking at what our group did in just a single year is motivating and proves that the impact of our weekly works adds up quickly.

Photo of Kenzley Defler weighing food.
Kenzley works to weigh and record the food collected in preparation for packaging shifts.

In addition to recovering food to be given out, Campus Kitchens hosts several events throughout the year to involve and educate the Auburn community. For example, last fall we partnered with the Committee of 19 to show the documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. This powerful film focused on a couple that only ate off of wasted food, i.e. food that would otherwise have been thrown away, for six months. The images shown of entire dumpsters filled with perfectly edible food that was being thrown out were shocking and eye opening. This documentary was a concrete visualization of the food waste problem being fought by Campus Kitchens.

One of my favorite events we hosted was a dinner banquet for EASE House. East Alabama Services for the Elderly focuses on providing life-sustaining services to senior citizens in Lee and Russell Counties. Last spring, Campus Kitchens partnered with Tiger Dining to plan a meal for some of the residents who came to Auburn’s campus for dinner. We helped set up and serve dinner to the residents and also got the chance to visit with them during the meal. Not only are events like this lots of fun, they provide a great way to interact with individuals in the community on a more personal level.

Since beginning to volunteer and becoming part of the leadership team of Auburn’s Campus Kitchens Project, I’ve learned so much about food waste and food insecurity and have seen the importance of breaking this cycle. It’s become a topic I’m passionate about and something I could see myself pursing in my future career. My involvement with the organization may have started out as an activity to put on a resume, however, it’s become so much more than that to me. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and most importantly, the opportunities I’ve had to make a difference in the community through my work with the Campus Kitchens Project at Auburn.

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