Washington and Lee University’s Campus Kitchen, a service organization that uses surplus food collected from campus dining services, catering operations and donations, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Many changes have taken place within the kitchen, including the appointment of a new coordinator, Robbie Turner ’02.
“I'm honored to be back at Washington and Lee in this capacity. I’m proud to work with students who are committed to connecting academic work with life outside of the classroom, and to building relationships in the community and to serving the community in such an important way,” said Turner.
The Campus Kitchen provides nutritious and tasty meals to the hungry in Lexington and surrounding areas. In addition to cooking and delivering the meals, the volunteers also provide companionship, mentoring and nutrition lessons to its clients. “The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee provides a great opportunity for students, faculty and staff to work together in a way that benefits the wider community. Likewise, students enjoy working side-by-side with faculty and staff in the kitchen and on the delivery shifts,” Turner continued.
W&L’s chapter of Campus Kitchens was started by Ingrid Easton ’06 after taking Poverty 101, a requirement of the Shepard Poverty Program department. After completing her internship, part of which was working at the Campus Kitchens national headquarters in Washington D.C., she believed she had found her calling--to start a non-profit to help the needy. Easton spent her entire senior year creating and organizing a Campus Kitchen on the W&L campus.
Most Campus Kitchen volunteers are on campus. Summertime was a concern, as most students and faculty leave Lexington during this time. Despite their absence, the kitchen maintained normal operations this summer. “It was great to have several W&L students who, even with research commitments this summer, were very dedicated to serving Rockbridge County. I feel as though community members were very impressed by the willingness of our students to spend their summer in Lexington and try to make a positive impact on the lives of county residents,” said Taylar Hart ’10, one of the few student volunteers to stay on campus last summer. Volunteers from the local community, VMI and SVU also pitched in to ensure that the kitchen would run smoothly.
On August 10, Campus Kitchen at W&L served its 10,000th meal. This landmark meal was delivered to the Magnolia House in Buena Vista. Meals are also prepared for and delivered to: Lexington City Office on Youth, Lexington Hospice, Project Horizon, Natural Bridge Manor, individual homes of Habitat for Humanity and the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center.
When a volunteer is unable to deliver their routine meals, they are deeply missed by those they help. They are inquired about when a substitute volunteer delivers meals to their “regulars.” Meaningful friendships are formed between volunteers and the individuals receiving the meals. They share conversation, education and meals. "We have students who have built deep relationships--friendships--with folks at a lot of our delivery sites, particularly at the Magnolia Center in Buena Vista,” said Turner. “The people at Magnolia Center always ask about certain students if they are not there, and some of our student volunteers will call and let their friends there know when they are not able to be at a certain delivery shift."
In addition to helping the needy meet nutritional needs, the volunteers benefit greatly from the opportunity. Many students spend their time at W&L without making connections to Lexington outside of the campus. Volunteering with the Campus Kitchen expands the horizons of the students involved. “The delivery shifts, particularly, are a great opportunity for students to learn more about Lexington and Rockbridge County, and to meet and build relationships with residents outside Washington and Lee,” said Turner.
It is apparent that W&L’s Campus Kitchen fills a definite need. During it’s first year, W&L’s Campus Kitchen has served over 10,453 meals, has accumulated 2230.5 hours of volunteer services from over 500 volunteers and has recovered over 6,000 pounds of food from various donors.
Donations of time, money and supplies are always encouraged and appreciated. “We depend on, and can always use, the support of people in many different ways: financial donations, volunteer hours, or by donating perishable items like milk and eggs that we need for certain cooking shifts,” said Turner.