New Year, New Schedule, New Blog
The Campus Kitchen at UGA launches student blog Welcome, dear readers, to our first-ever blog post. If you've found us online, chances are you already know a bit about us and what we do. But in case this is your first introduction to Campus Kitchen (CKUGA), allow me to catch you up to speed. Before you ask, no, we are not related to UGA's dining services--though we sometimes receive donations from them!
We are a student-led hunger relief organization that fights senior hunger and food waste in
Athens, Ga. as a program of the University of Georgia's Office of Service-Learning. Each week, CKUGA collects food donations from area grocery stores and farms that might have otherwise been thrown away due to things like surplus or sell-by dates. Our student leaders guide volunteers throughout each week at a variety of shifts to prepare healthy, made-from-scratch meals to be delivered directly to food-insecure seniors and their families. We are partners with the Athens Community Council on Aging and provide extra meals and/or grocery bags to their Meals on Wheels, Center for Active Living, and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren clients who were found to be especially food-insecure.
In addition to providing food, our students go beyond the meal by using food as a tool to participate in nutrition education, combat senior isolation, provide S.N.A.P. assistance, and create dialogues on food waste and hunger in the UGA community.
Telling our story: A long-time coming
First, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Kaeli Evans, I am the AmeriCorps VISTA serving with CKUGA full-time. Though our terms as VISTAs typically last one year, I was happy to sign on for a second year with CKUGA starting this March. This has really allowed me to experience a full year with CKUGA and be able to better plan through yearly events or historical volunteer gaps as a part of my capacity building responsibilities.
I'm a Mid-West transplant with an undergraduate degree in Public Relations, so naturally, a goal for my first service year included building up our social media presence and eventually launch a blog/website as a way to tell the Campus Kitchen story and give students a place to share their experiences. It's been a long-time coming building it and tweaking it between my weekly operations shifts and office work, but I'm happy to say we're close to our official website launch this February! (Stay tuned!) In the meantime, you'll get to hear from other Campus Kitchen leaders and staff here on our blog leading up to some events we have in the works.
A new schedule for 2017
So with the new year and new blog comes a brand new CKUGA schedule. As a great musician once said: "I feel a change coming on." Whether we truly enjoy change or not, I think we've felt the winds of change here at CKUGA taking us in this direction for some time now. In the Fall leading up to this semester, we were able to take a step back to: evaluate our current schedule, identify re-occurring issues, and coordinate accordingly with all stakeholders to come up with a new plan for 2017.
When it comes to something as delicate as food, it's important to us that we get the food to individuals as quickly and as safely as possible. Our mission is to build our services around the needs of our clients.
While our old schedule served us well at the time, we were able to come up with possible solutions for a few re-occurring problems. For example, the majority of our food collection takes place on Sundays, where we are typically given perishable items such as fruit. Most of the time, we are given that food for a reason: it's towards the end of its shelf life. And while that's not very different from the other donations we receive, fruit can be especially time-sensitive and not all of our fruit was able to make it to the end of the week when we delivered bi-weekly grocery bags to our clients. By switching our deliveries to the beginning of the week versus the end, we are able to get food out the door faster without as much loss.
This change also allowed us to better serve our MOW and CAL clients by providing an extra meal towards the end of the week, as an option for a weekend meal, since that's the time of the week it's most needed when week-day services are closed. It's taken some thought and time to change, and that can be difficult at first while you wait for each proceeding puzzle piece to fall in place. But it's a necessary investment in our clients, and I am happy we were able to work with our stakeholders to make these changes possible.