By: Hailey Wood, Staff Writer
Student Body President Katelyn Seavey, working together with Cheryl Laz, a sociology professor, brought the Campus Kitchens Project, which helps provide meals to those who are food insecure, to USM.
Seavey was inspired to bring the project to USM after hearing Alex Moore speak at the Maine Hunger Dialogue in Presque Isle a year ago. He was so inspirational, Seavey said, “you just want to do something right away.” All the resources she needed to start the program were at the conference, so she started making her plans. Seavey sees the project as, “a new way to look at fighting hunger.”
As Seavey was working to start the program at USM, Laz was also in the midst of working on the project with some of her students. Neither of them knew that the other had been working on the same thing until their coordinator from the Campus Kitchens Project, Alex Peterson, put them in contact with each other.
Laz serves as the faculty advisor and works alongside the students with all of their activities as they work, to help them construct a leadership team and get operations off the ground.
The Campus Kitchens Project is a nationwide program that can be brought to different schools through the hard work of students. They provide meals to chosen recipients who are food insecure. The parent organization of the program is DC Central Kitchen and their staff in Washington D.C. has been providing support to every step of the way to make the project possible here at USM, Seavey said.
The Campus Kitchens Project has partnered with Sodexo for assistance and supplies to be able to cook weekly meals.
“We provide culinary insight, training, supplies and work alongside the team to help them produce meals on a weekly basis,” Tadd Stone, general manager for Sodexo said. Sodexo also provides them with any usable food that would have otherwise been wasted. They have strict guidelines on what extra food can and cannot be used.
“Food that was put out on a buffet can’t be used because we have no way of telling what that food has been exposed to,” said Seavey.
The recipient of the Campus Kitchen Project at USM is the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America in the Greater Portland area. Each week those volunteering for the project cook meals for approximately 150 students from the ages six to 18.
“We work with them to identify items in our facility that are overstocked or overproduced. We donate those items to them and provide culinary oversight as they work alongside our culinarians in our kitchen to produce the meals,” Stone said. “In addition,” he added, “We will continue to work with them to fill their pantry that they work from and provide insight into dishes that they would like to produce.”
Laz said that handling some of the meals for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club can free up their resources so that they can do even more things for their members.
“It really is a model of, sort of, finding opportunities where other people would have seen problems like too much waste or leftover food and seeing those as opportunities as opposed to just problems,” said Laz. She added that they have more ideas on how to expand and serve food to even more people.
USM is the first Maine college to participate in the Campus Kitchen Project. As a team they were able to raise $7,000 through a fellowship and a video grant competition. Seavey hopes that other students see this and believe that they can also take action for what they believe in.
“We have not yet decided what we want to do for our program, but we would like to expand the program as we move forward,” Seavey said. So far the group is made up of about twenty different students who have been involved with the project and are currently looking for more volunteers.
Stone said that he admires the effort of Seavey in Laz and their work for the project.
“They have really lead the effort with their team from the school’s side and we have truly appreciated this opportunity to work with them to provide a valuable service to our community,” he said. “The program complements the great work that is being done on the Portland campus with the food recovery cooler, food pantry, and the Food Security Coalition.”
If you would like to get involved with the Campus Kitchen Project, Katelyn Seavey can be contacted at [email protected].