Campus Kitchen—Youth Philanthropy Award

The Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College was established in October 2003 and is one of only 15 Campus Kitchen organizations around the country. Campus Kitchen collaborates with the college dining service, local community groups, and individuals to plan, prepare, deliver, and serve meals to low-income individuals in the Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods. The program is run by a staff coordinator, two student interns, and a volunteer student leadership team. These volunteers coordinate cooking and delivery shifts which are assisted by two to ten others, who include student, neighborhood, campus, church, and corporate volunteers. We are nominating Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College for AFP’s Outstanding Youth Award to recognize the important work of many volunteers and to demonstrate how philanthropy is not only the giving of money, but also of time, talent, and heart.

At Augsburg, we believe that we are called to serve our neighbor. Our Campus Kitchen project embodies that belief and lives out Augsburg’s mission, “to nurture future leaders in service to the world ….” Campus Kitchen contributes to the community in the following ways:

    • Strengthens bodies by using existing resources to reduce hunger and meet nutritional needs;
    • Empowers minds by providing leadership and service learning opportunities to college students and educational experiences to adults, seniors, children, and families;
    • Builds community by fostering the new generation of community-minded adults through resourceful and mutually beneficial partnerships among students, social service agencies, businesses, and universities;
    • Enhances the local food supply by collecting and serving organic and locally grown food.

In its six years, Campus Kitchen has been the recipient of three awards recognizing the program’s outstanding service and achievements: Student Organization of the Year, given by Augsburg College; Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award, given by World Hunger Year in 2004; and the Great Idea Award, given by America’s Promise. We are proud to offer the nomination of Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College as an example of outstanding youth philanthropy.

Since our original nomination was submitted in May 2008, the program has developed in several new ways. Last June Augsburg College’s dining service provider and primary partner in the program changed. A’viands, a locally-based culinary company specializing in food and services management, took over and embraced the additional challenge of Campus Kitchen. In addition, Campus Kitchen has created new opportunities to receive donations of food. By coordinating campus participation in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and starting a farmers market on campus, we are able to provide more fresh organic and locally grown produce to the people we serve.

Food and in-kind donations are the part of the Campus Kitchen equation that is easily recognizable as philanthropy. By providing access to food that would otherwise be thrown away, A’viands reduces waste and helps meet food needs in our community. We are thrilled that A’viands has exceeded expectations for the amount of food it has provided Campus Kitchen and that we are able to continue the program. Other food donors are Cub Foods, Emergency Foodshelf Network, Rainbow Foods, Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank, Twelve Baskets Food Recovery Program, and Seward Co-Op.

Campus Kitchen has created additional opportunities to receive food donations and is therefore able to provide more locally grown and organic produce to the people it serves. Two years ago Augsburg’s Campus Kitchen started a community garden on a piece of unutilized land on campus. Now starting its third summer, the garden contains 40 plots, 10 feet by 10 feet each. Approximately one third of the plots are used by neighborhood residents, one third by Augsburg employees, and one third by community organizations to grow their own food. Not only does the garden provide more healthy food than before, but also a space for youth to cultivate their own vegetables through the Summer Garden and Nutrition Education Project.

2009 will be the second summer that Campus Kitchen has organized local participation in a CSA farm. The Community Supported Agriculture program is a model of food production, sales, and distribution aimed at both increasing the quality of food and the quality of care given the land, plants, and animals, while substantially reducing potential food losses and financial risks for the producers. Individuals purchase shares in the farm and in turn receive a weekly distribution of food, usually vegetables, as the harvest progresses. Campus Kitchen is the site coordinator for the entire Augsburg community and benefits from collecting and using the leftover or unclaimed fresh produce. In addition, each growing season, the program receives six shares of organic produce from its partner CSA, Ploughshare Farm’s Food for Folk Project. This comprises 60% of the produce served to Campus Kitchen clients during the harvest season.

Starting this season, local farmers will sell their produce one afternoon per week at a farmers market on campus. Augsburg’s partnership with the Brian Coyle Community Center to host this market at different times in the two locations will make locally grown and produced food more accessible. At the end of the day, the farmers will have the option to donate unsold food to the Campus Kitchen program.

It is important to remember that these donations of food only reach the community through the Campus Kitchen volunteers who give of their time, talent, and heart. While the program is professionally staffed by a coordinator and two interns, the activities of the leadership team, comprising 8-12 Augsburg student volunteers, provide the essential component—people power. The leadership team coordinates other volunteers during three cooking shifts and six food delivery shifts each week. They all prepare meals in Augsburg’s dining services kitchen, store them in coolers overnight, and deliver them the following day. Not only do the volunteers prepare and deliver meals, but they give of their heart, by providing conversation and offering companionship to the individuals that they serve each day.

In the summer, student volunteers share what they have learned. Through the Summer Garden and Nutrition Education Project, Campus Kitchen implements a curriculum with neighborhood youth to teach them about the importance of choosing health for their bodies and the earth through the food they eat. Developed by Augsburg College students and currently led by two student interns, youth from the Brian Coyle Community Center and the Somali Confederation spend two days per week together. One day they focus on growing food, learning the importance of soil heath, composting, and the full cycle of food; and the other day they spend developing the skills to produce and prepare delicious and nutritional meals.

The food donations, time, talent, and heart given by Campus Kitchen volunteers have a measurable result in the community. Campus Kitchen strengthens bodies by preparing and delivering over 1,700 meals each month to individuals who are homeless, have low incomes, or are part of communities in need. This is done through 11 different community partners. Campus Kitchen is able to reduce food waste and save more than five tons of food from the college dining service waste stream each year.

Augsburg College is located in the heart of Minneapolis. Our Campus Kitchen organization serves the Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods, with a combined population of 27,350. According to the City of Minneapolis, the median income for households in these neighborhoods is $14,367 and $22,044 respectively. We also serve elderly and disabled individuals and low-income families. The main demographic groups served include homeless men, recent Somali and East African immigrants, long-time members of the Native American community, and elderly and youth of all nationalities.

The ideal community partner for Campus Kitchen is a local organization that provides food to its program participants in addition to its core services, such as apartment placement or youth development. Through partnership with Campus Kitchen, these groups can focus more of their resources on providing their core services, not diverting them to provide essential meals. Community organizations that receive Campus Kitchen services include the Brian Coyle Community Center, Trinity Lutheran Safe Place, Peace House, Loaves and Fishes, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, and Common Bond Communities.

Through Campus Kitchen, student volunteers and interns have the opportunity to build on talents and academic skills learned in the classroom. Basic skills needed to start or operate a nonprofit, such as detailed program planning, are practiced. Students learn the importance of professionalism and how good networking is the way to get the job done efficiently and effectively. The return volunteer learns and applies culinary skills, such as food preparation methods and safe food storage procedures. Overarching all these practical skills is becoming aware of how we currently use our resources and how we can reduce waste.

Through service-learning partnerships, professors use the Campus Kitchen as a “living text” for their classrooms. Augsburg history professor Phil Adamo, whose History 101 students are a regular fixture at the Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College, says, “One of the things I stress in History 101 is that a lot of history happens because of the resources people have or don’t have. Working in the Campus Kitchen gives [my students] a hands-on understanding of how resources are collected, distributed, controlled.”

Sharing information and teaching others is another skill learned through Campus Kitchens. In the process of working with children to emphasize the benefits of making healthy food choices they learn to organize and prepare teaching materials. By educating and training other volunteers about food preparation and safety, they teach and provide opportunities for others to learn.

By giving of their heart, volunteers contribute to building the community around and within their campus. During weekly interaction with clients and community organizations, volunteers learn how to communicate with people of different backgrounds. Others teach them how they view the world and both grow in their understanding of what it’s like to be in other circumstances. By participating in Campus Kitchen, volunteers can learn to more fully connect with and be present in the Augsburg community.

“There are few who fully understand that volunteering makes you rich. You may not have made a lot of money at the end of the day, but you have invested in people, and that is priceless.” 

—Campus Kitchen volunteer

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