This week, we sat down with Joanne Amposta, VT Engage Americorps VISTA member, about her work on the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech. While most people have heard about the Campus Kitchen, few can explain all of the work that the group actually does – this post will hopefully provide a taste of the operation and give due credit to the fabulous work that CKVT volunteers and employees do on a daily basis.
The Campus Kitchen project was started by DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit focused on food recovery, meal preparation, and diversion. The group was so successful in our nation’s capital that it sought to expand its work, but lacked the resources to build sustainable models in other communities. Instead of a centralized operation, DC Central Kitchen built the Campus Kitchen project, with the idea to outsource facilities and volunteers and help existing institutions function as food recovery hubs within their own communities. Virginia Tech’s chapter has been three years in the making, with three different VISTA volunteers brought on to plan, pilot, and implement the project. The VT chapter was the 48th Campus Kitchen to open, and since its official launch in Fall 2015, three more chapters have joined the growing national movement.
Since its launch last September, the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech has quickly filled its plate with activities, opportunities, and tons of volunteer power. Once a week, the group uses a kitchen space in Wallace Hall (through a partnership agreement with HNFE) to prepare 40-60 meals with food they collect from VT Dining Halls, and every day, volunteers collect and package leftover food from D2, West End Market, and (as of last week!) Owens. All meals and recovered food are hand-delivered daily to the Radford-Fairlawn Our Daily Bread. So far, the dedicated volunteers involved with the CKVT have successfully diverted over 10,000 pounds of campus food waste from the landfill and delivered it to community members in need!
What items are being diverted from dining centers, you ask? VT Dining strives to minimize food waste by monitoring daily amounts being diverted and in turn, adjusting our production quantities. Sometimes, items will no longer comply with Dining Services’ quality standards (for example: number of times food can be reheated, amount of time item should be held at certain temperatures), but are still edible. These items are what get diverted to the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech and other area food banks.
There are so many Hokies who want to get involved with CKVT that the waiting list stretches over 80 names just to become a regular volunteer. If you are one of those names, do not despair: new opportunities to engage are always popping up, and the Campus Kitchen regularly sends volunteers to help at other hunger relief organizations and nearby food banks, such as Micah’s Backpack and the Giving Tree Food Pantry.
Joanne was excited to announce upcoming projects, such as a senior backpack program that uses dry ingredients only (quite the challenge!) and building a community garden at 3 Birds Berry Farm later this spring. Additionally, we hope to expand diversion efforts to Squires next! The Campus Kitchen’s appetite for activity only continues to grow, it seems.
The CKVT would not be the successful program it is today if not for its partnerships with Dining Services, VT Engage, and so many more. Although Joanne’s position with the Campus Kitchen is coming to a close, she is confident that student energy and leadership will sustain the program into the future. If there’s anything to learn from the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech, it’s that hard-working Hokies and community collaboration can truly change the world.