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Baylor University Students Begin Campus Kitchen Project

Dec. 6, 2008

By TERRI JO RYAN
Waco Tribune Herald

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, the proverb goes. The project to feed 1,000 mouths each day in Waco began Friday with a single serving of beef barley soup.

Student organizers behind the Campus Kitchen at Baylor University project gathered in a borrowed kitchen at The Center, 1115 Columbus Ave., to conduct a trial run.

With mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, fried chicken and beefy macaroni and cheese rescued from the Baylor dining halls, and 165 pounds of soup purchased at a greatly discounted price from the student chefs of Texas State Technical College, Campus Kitchen was born.

Friday's two meals -- lunch for 40 children and adults at Talitha Koum Nurture Center and an equal amount for dinner at the Family Abuse Center -- were practice for when 200 volunteers, primarily Baylor students, officially kick off the program next semester.

They will start by serving one day a week at one local social service agency. But the eventual goal will be to serve 1,000 people every day, working in cooperation with World Hunger Relief Inc., said Beth Kilpatrick, one of the social work students in the project who is also studying for her Master of Divinity.

The young entity already collaborates with many local groups, from Aramark, the food company that services the Baylor dining halls, and a small group of local eateries; to the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, which has worked on food rescue for more than three years; and the Waco Health Department, which certified the food safety of the facility and its volunteers.

"Everybody wants to roll up their sleeves and help," said Kristen Nielsen, a social work student also studying for her Master of Divinity. "We'll use our excess to give people access. We're recovering food to rescue people."

Nielsen has been the project's chief recruiter, attracting more than 200 students from across the grade levels and many academic disciplines to join the cause.

The Campus Kitchen concept was brought to Baylor by Dub Oliver, vice president for student life at Baylor University who will become East Texas Baptist University's new president in June; Rosemary Townsend, director of business affairs at Baylor; and Gaynor Yancy, associate dean of the School of Social Work.

"They energized and empowered us to get it going, and have passed the torch to us," Nielsen said.

Heather Deal, a social work student also studying for her Master of Divinity, said Campus Kitchen may have started as a class project for social work students, but its goals are more sweeping and lofty.

For example, the local founders had to complete a feasibility study and three-year plan to comply with the national organization. They had to project the budget for the next three years, including steps to pursue funding and acquisition of supplies and equipment. They set up two advisory boards, one student-based and the other in cooperation with community leaders.

Eventually, Deal added, community organizers hope to open the Campus Kitchen at Baylor University to teach culinary skills to the homeless and unemployed, giving them job skills and a way out of poverty.

Campus Kitchen is a project of D.C. Central Kitchen, a nearly 20-year-old nonprofit organization formed first to make sure the leftover food from a presidential inauguration did not go to waste. D.C. Central Kitchen discovered that many colleges also had problems disposing of excess food.

The Campus Kitchens Project was spun off five years ago, and now has a dozen such student-led reclamation operations around the country. Baylor's chapter is the 13th, and the first in Texas, said Flor Avellaneda, a McGregor senior in the Master of Social Work program.

Columbus Avenue Baptist Church has agreed to allow Campus Kitchen to use its facilities until it has a home of its own, Avellaneda said.

The official opening has been set for Jan. 19, 2009 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- when Campus Kitchen and the hunger farm will partner to serve 1,000 people at nine satellite sites throughout Waco.

For more information on Campus Kitchen or to donate to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, contact project coordinator Rosemary Townsend at 710-4988 or Rosemary_Townsend@baylor.edu.