Washington and Lee University’s Campus Kitchen (CKWL), recently completed its second year of full-time operation. CKWL is a service organization that uses surplus food collected from campus dining services, catering operations and donations to provide nutritious meals to the hungry in Lexington and surrounding areas.
Founded in September 2006 by Ingrid Easton ’06, the organization employs a large network of volunteers to cook and deliver meals, as well as provide companionship, mentoring and nutrition education to those it serves.
Easton, a student in the Shepherd Poverty Program, was inspired to start W&L’s Campus Kitchen by her internship experience at the organization’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The operation had an immediate impact on the local community, and after just one year of service, CKWL received the “Excellence in Operations” Award from national office, recognizing its success in maintaining high-capacity operations and in engaging strong student leaders.
"This award is a testimony to all the hard work done by many people-- Dining Services, faculty, staff, our client-partner agencies and most especially our students; we are very pleased to receive it," said Robbie Turner ’02, Campus Kitchen coordinator. "There are many fine Campus Kitchen operations at other colleges, so to be singled out for this award is a real honor."
Beneficiaries of W&L’s Campus Kitchen’s meals have included the Lexington City Office on Youth, Rockbridge Area Hospice, Project Horizon, Natural Bridge Manor, the Magnolia Center in Buena Vista, individual Habitat for Humanity homes and the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center.
In addition to helping the needy meet nutritional requirements, the volunteers benefit greatly from the opportunity, expanding their horizons by making connections off-campus. “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 ’02.
The ongoing benefit to the local community is clear. During the 2007-08 academic year, Campus Kitchen served 10,040 meals, including 190 Thanksgiving meals with all the trimmings. 21 turkeys were donated by faculty, staff, students and community members during the Kitchen’s “Take Your Turkey to Work Days,” enabling the organization to provide whole turkeys to seven Habitat for Humanity families in addition to the prepared Thanksgiving meals.
In all, approximately 8,000 lbs of donated food was used to prepare the year’s meals.
The organization also offered a bi-monthly, student-led “Healthy Cooking on a Limited Budget” class for women and children from Project Horizon, a local domestic abuse shelter, and joined with members of the biology department and Dining Services to create a campus community garden, which will provide fresh produce for Campus Kitchen meals. Campus Kitchen volunteers assisted with the initial planting, and will help with harvesting the garden over the summer and fall.
In the future, CKWL will continue to seek ways to better serve the community, and particularly to locate individuals and families who may especially benefit from meals. The organization will also participate in the nearby Natural Bridge Juvenile Correctional Center’s Work Release program.
“We are confident that this effort will be extremely beneficial to the young men in the program and assist them in pointing their lives in a healthier direction,” said Turner. “We are likewise hopeful that this initiative will allow W&L students to both learn from these young men from very different backgrounds and to serve as mentors to them as they work alongside each other.”