Student-Driven Hunger Relief Program
Since 2005, students at Minnesota State University, Mankato have guided Campus Kitchen, a hunger relief project. The Campus Kitchen Project is a national initiative aiming to empower students to take action in their communities while also developing leadership skills. Volunteers eager to support this cause, are lead and trained by our own student staff here on campus. Throughout the academic year, students serve over 1500 hours of service.
So, how does Campus Kitchen work? Starting in August, once students have returned to campus, volunteers help prep the kitchen to get ready for the upcoming year. Once the kitchen is up to code, the student staff launches a weekly, three-day service progression.
On Fridays, volunteers will head out into the community collecting individual and company donations. Student volunteers will stop at restaurants such as Caribou, Chipotle, Long John Silvers, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden to collect excess food. Over the weekend, all the donations are stored in the Kitchen’s freezers. On Mondays, volunteers meet to prepare and assemble the donations into separate meals. Then meals are delivered to ECHO Food Shelf, Partners of Affordable Housing, or individual clients on Tuesdays. Through this process, about 150 meals are delivered each week.
Over the years, this program has helped make a significant difference on campus and in the greater Mankato community. Campus Kitchen provides an opportunity for students to connect and build relationships with other students and community members outside of the classroom. Dillon Petrowitz, a senior Urban and Regional Studies major and Community Engagement Leadership Team member, stated, “I thrive on meeting a wide range of volunteers from different countries and having them support Student Driven Hunger Relief efforts".
This project would not be successful without the donations and collaboration of community members and local restaurants. From picking up donations to helping farmers pick fresh produce during harvest, Campus Kitchen volunteers are rescuing nearly 6,000 pounds of food donations every year.
Petrowitz also says, “I enjoy my work in Campus Kitchen because I know I am making a huge impact on the community. The most rewarding part of this work is having validation from clients, community members and the general public for our contributions to making this a better place to live.” Over the life-span of Campus Kitchen, student volunteers have come together to help serve over 80,000 meals to the community.