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Baylor Students to Turn Cafeteria Leftovers Into Meals for Needy Wacoans

Oct. 27, 2008

By TIM WOODS
Waco Tribune Herald

Waste not, want not.

That may be the motto for a group of Baylor University students working to open a "Campus Kitchen," in which unused food from the school's cafeterias and local restaurants is prepared and served to local underprivileged populations, rather than tossed into the garbage.

As part of a master's degree course in Baylor's school of social work, several students, with the help of Associate Dean Gaynor Yancey, have been working to find food donors, social work graduate student Megan Nichols said. Aramark, which serves food in the Baylor cafeterias, and local restaurants and caterers have agreed to donate leftover food, she said. The students also have been searching for funding and a kitchen for the project.

"It's a pretty simple idea, but it's been a very intense and difficult process," said Nichols, who said the idea originated at a college in Washington, D.C.

She said one decision was more trying than the rest.

"In all honesty, I think the biggest personal struggle we had was deciding who to serve because there are so many hungry people in Waco," she said. "There were hours and hours of discussion that went into, 'How do we pick some people to feed, knowing that there are going to be so many hungry families in Waco?' "

In the end, the group decided that food service will be available for those from the Kate Ross and Sul Ross areas, as well as the community near South Waco Elementary, just south of LaSalle Avenue. They plan to begin the food service Dec. 5.

However, Nichols said they hope what started as a semesterlong class project will turn into a permanent program involving several disciplines at Baylor and will ultimately serve more than just those communities within Waco.

Brett Perlowski, director of dining services for Aramark on the Baylor campus, said he couldn't comment extensively on the program because of company policy, but revealed that Aramark is partnering with the student group, both providing food and in a consulting role to teach the students how to properly handle and prepare the food.

From the sounds of it, there should be plenty of food to go around, even just from Aramark.

Nichols said the Campus Kitchen likely will get two to three pans of food per week from each of three Baylor cafeterias from Aramark. Each pan serves about 20 people.

"It doesn't sound like very much, until you think about how many people that could feed," Nichols said, adding that amount of food could feed at least 120 people.

Though there are still details yet to be finalized-- the group still doesn't have a permanent home for the kitchen -- Nichols promised it will be open Dec. 5.

"We will absolutely cook food and feed it to people on that day," Nichols said. "We'll figure it out, one way or another."

Reprinted with permission