Campus Kitchen Helping Community During COVID-19

Written by on April 25, 2021

Photo caption: Krystal Franklin puts some fig bars in a client’s bag during a Campus Kitchen pantry on Friday April 9, 2021.

Kent State’s Campus Kitchen was created in 2011 by two students to help fight hunger in the community. Today, they’re looking to expand while coping with the regulations of COVID.

Volunteer Krystal Franklin has been involved with Campus Kitchen for the past four years, since freshman year. She did not expect to get as involved as she is now but loves every bit of it.

“When I first started volunteering at Campus Kitchen, I did not expect to get so involved,” she said. “I nearly just started to gain some community hours but ended up loving it.”

Franklin explained how pantry days usually go.

“Pantry days start with our scheduled appointments then get followed up by a 30-minute walk-in period for people who don’t have appointments,” she said.

Franklin mentioned the pantry has an average of 15 appointments per day with each person taking an average of 30 pounds.

Director Amanda Woodyard detailed who Campus Kitchen sees the most.

“We’re increasingly seeing more students,” she said. “60% student usage, 30% community members and 10% are faculty and staff.”

Woodyard said food insecurity has become more talked about as it has become more of a public issue. She gave a statistic where 40% of food produced in the United States gets thrown away.

“We try to break that cycle and get that food into the hands of hungry people in the community,” she explained.

Asked how much food they go through, Woodyard said in one year, 90,000 pounds of food from Trader Joe’s gets repurposed to give out, 12,000 pounds was given out from on-campus food pantries and 200 hot meals were given through local agencies.

Woodyard says the pandemic has forced Campus Kitchen to cut back on production.

“Unfortunately, we have had to minimize some of our hot meal programs,” she said. “We haven’t been able to start those programs back up. We started cooking again, but they are drop-offs. It’s the hardest thing we had to give up.”

Woodyard also said the number of volunteers has gone down from 500 to 100 despite a large location that allows the Flashes Safe Seven to be followed. It is outside, behind the tri-towers rotunda at the intersection of Leebrick and Senhauser Dr.

However, she says the organization is still looking to expand.

“We’ve grown on-campus food pantries with four,” she said. “Three out of tri-towers and support the fourth with the Dean of Students.”

Woodyard shared one story as to why Campus Kitchen exists and is such a staple in the community.

“We have a regular whose husband passed away,” she said. “Not only is she more dependent on food resources, but she has 20 minutes to socialize out of the house. It’s providing that interaction which we desperately needed over the last year.

“Older adults taking care of their grandchildren, people who lost their jobs and their status has changed. There’s always a story behind every list to the pantry.”

Franklin said there is not one story to pinpoint but rather the opportunity to help people and form connections within community members is amazing and elaborated on what the future of Campus Kitchen will be.

“It is rewarding to lift unneeded stress from people’s lives,” she said. “Everyone is so grateful for what we do.

“Who knows where it will take us! Campus Kitchen is ever-expanding with community donations and volunteers! Campus Kitchen is like a family.”

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