Teaching, feeding Waco

BU Campus Kitchen works year round, wins national award

By Kalli Damschen

Photo of a community garden

The Campus Kitchen at Baylor University is working year round to eradicate hunger by connecting students with the community and targeting the root causes of hunger.

For the second year in a row, Baylor Campus Kitchen maintained the program throughout the summer. AmeriCorps, a national volunteer initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service, sponsored six Baylor students and graduates to stay in Waco during the summer months and keep the program going.

The Baylor Campus Kitchen is part of the national non-profit Campus Kitchens Project (CKP). The CKP promotes student-powered hunger relief by recovering food from dining halls and preparing meals for community members, using food as a tool to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.

"The Campus Kitchens Project is the leading nonprofit in the United States when it comes to empowering students to fight hunger, food waste and poverty. There are over 50 schools involved in the Campus Kitchens Project, with countless volunteers working with those organizations," said Eric Pritt, coordinator of Baylor Campus Kitchen.

This summer Baylor Campus Kitchen focused on child hunger. Through partnerships with Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) (baylor.edu/texashunger), Waco ISD and La Vega ISD, Baylor Campus Kitchen volunteers delivered meals to different areas and served more than 8,800 meals to local children.

Craig Nash, MDiv '12, child hunger outreach specialist for THI, said more than one in four children in McLennan County live in households that are food insecure, which means they face barriers to having three healthy meals per day seven days per week.

However, Campus Kitchen goes beyond serving food and seeks to eliminate hunger by attacking its roots.

"You can't end hunger with food. You need to use food as a tool to address the root causes of hunger," Pritt said.

Nash said there are many variables relating to the root causes of hunger, including income, access, food quality, family size and health concerns.

"It is important to address both the root causes and the immediate needs of hunger," Nash said.

One way to address the root causes of hunger is education. In addition to serving food this summer, Baylor Campus Kitchen taught health and gardening classes to children at Restoration Haven ministry and Calvary Baptist Church in Waco.

Through its year-round efforts to uproot hunger at its source, Baylor Campus Kitchen brings together Baylor students, faculty, staff and the Waco community.

"We host several events throughout the year in which our goal is to get into the community and bridge the gap between Baylor and Waco," Pritt said./p>

One such event was Sprouts Day this summer. Held at the Dewey Community Center, this Campus Kitchen event brought together local agencies focused on health and wellness with more than 100 local children involved in the Waco Parks and Recreation Department’s summer programs.

As a result of such community events, Baylor Campus Kitchen received the national Going Beyond the Meal award last spring. The CKP award honors a chapter of the organization that demonstrates excellent "beyond the meal" initiatives by using food as a tool to bring people together. Baylor Campus Kitchen was cited for its 2015 summer Roots Day event, a community health fair for senior citizens that included cooking demonstrations, garden demonstrations and senior adult aerobics.

Baylor Campus Kitchen also partners with the Baylor Community Garden for community engagement by presenting gardening classes on healthy eating.

"The food that is harvested from the community garden is used in our daily cooking shifts to provide meals for various organizations in Waco, and our delivery team is responsible for transporting these meals," said Rebecca Peirce, a Baylor Business Fellows senior from College Station, Texas, and the student director of Baylor's program. "Campus Kitchen's unique nature stems from the manner in which we are working to combat food waste. It provides a direct avenue through which we can also work to fight hunger."

During the fall semester Baylor Campus Kitchen volunteers plan to increase community engagement by eating dinner with the clients they serve.

"We are working with several community partners to make this happen, with the goal of bringing Baylor students and the Waco community in closer community with each other," Pritt said.