Kitchen Aid

Campus Kitchens Project Repurposes Unused Food

Student volunteers with Emory's Campus Kitchens group prepare meals from unused food collected from campus eateries. The meals are then donated to local antihunger charities.
Kay Hinton

Naomi Maisel 16C vividly remembers the day that began her quest to turn wasted food at Emory into much-needed meals for the hungry in Atlanta.

She was a freshman, clearing her dishes after eating at Dobbs Market.

“There was this large trash can, and it was filled to the brim with uneaten food,” she says. “It bothered me so much, I left thinking about it.”

The next day, she headed to eateries on and around campus to see if they would donate unused food that otherwise would go to waste.

“They told me I needed to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit,” Maisel says.

This past fall, armed with a commercial freezer, a group of dedicated student volunteers, and the support of a successful nonprofit organization, Maisel saw her mission come to fruition as student president of the new Emory chapter of the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP). The Washington, D.C.–based community service program helps students recover food from university dining venues that otherwise would be wasted to prepare and deliver meals to community organizations fighting hunger.

Now a junior human health and anthropology major, Maisel says the chapter would not have been possible without support from Emory Campus Dining Services and Sodexo, which partners with CKP to address hunger through the Sodexo Foundation.

David Furhman, senior director of Emory Dining Services, came to Emory from Johns Hopkins University, where he helped start a Campus Kitchens chapter.

“Having Naomi start a chapter here allows us to really bring to life many of the values that we have in campus life and at Emory,” he says.

Maisel has spent much of the past two years working with Dining Services, Sodexo, the Office of Student Leadership and Service (OSLS), and CKP planning and organizing. With their help, she located a space to prepare meals and secured an industrial freezer to store food collected from dining services. By the end of the 2013–2014 academic year, she had organized a group of like-minded student charter members, made sure everyone got state-certified to handle and prepare food, and planned a pilot of the program.

In fall 2014, the group began picking up food from Cox Hall Market, Dobbs Market, and other campus eateries and taking it to the preparation kitchen located in the basement of Few Hall. Food collected includes prepared breads and unprepared fruits, vegetables, and other foods from catered campus events. The group has a scale in the packaging room to track the amount of food collected and the amount of prepared food donated to the community. Once a week, students will repurpose the food into prepared meals using recipes provided by Campus Kitchens and freeze them for distribution to community organizations including Mercy Community Church, Intown Collaborative Ministries, Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, and Meals On Wheels Atlanta, with other partnerships pending.

Robert A. Stern, chair of the Sodexo Foundation, says the organization is committed to helping develop the next generation of antihunger leaders.

“There are nearly 184,000 people living in Fulton County who are at risk of hunger, of which more than 52,200 are children,” Stern says. “With a need this considerable right in Emory University’s backyard, collaborative efforts like the Campus Kitchens Project that engage students and the campus community are vitally important.”

In November, Campus Kitchens student volunteers helped prepare meals for the group’s first delivery to local organizations—homemade vegetable soup with couscous and zucchini pasta casserole to feed 120 people.

Rebecca Lichtenstein 16C, marketing and fund-raising chair for the group, worked with a food recovery program in her hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, as a high school student. She hopes to use her experience to help Emory’s Campus Kitchens grow.

“I am focused on spreading the word on campus and getting volunteers and any other clubs and organizations who want to partner with us on board, so we have a bigger base of volunteers,” Lichtenstein says.

An administrative board made up of members from Campus Dining, Sodexo, the Office of Sustainability, OSLS, Emory’s Interfraternity Council, Campus Life, and Emory Catering will help ensure that the program continues after Maisel graduates in 2016.

“It is an incredible feeling because it was just an idea, and it is amazing to see that really blossom,” Maisel says. “The great thing about Campus Kitchens is that everyone involved has a stake in it because it is your university, your friends, your administration, your community. This is something I want to continue for years after I am gone.”

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