Students Provide Hot Meals to Greensboro Community
November 29, 2012
Last year a Food Research and Action Center report found that 25 percent of families in the Greensboro/High Point area struggle to feed themselves.
Guilford is known for its record of service, and its students are always willing to lend a hand. When social issues like hunger hit so close to home, a little initiative can go a long way.
The Community Kitchen Project started in 2010 when CCE student Tinece Holman had the idea to start a Campus Kitchen as part of the Campus Kitchens Project, an organization that partners with high schools and colleges “to share on-campus kitchen space, recover food from cafeterias, and engage students as volunteers who prepare and deliver meals to the community,” according to the organization’s website.
However, Tinece met resistance, and it would have taken too long for Guilford to become a part of the program. Instead, with a grant from the Center for Principled Problem Solving, she began the Community Kitchens Project, which gets its food from the cafeteria and provides free hot meals at various locations around Greensboro on Tuesdays. Today the project is an official student organization operating out of Shore Hall and continues to grow.
“We have a diverse and awesome group of steady people volunteering,” said Project Coordinator and Hunger Fellow Helen Mandalinic. “We actually had to cap our volunteers this year because it was just too many people coming, and it would just be ‘too many cooks in the kitchen.’ We’re really well-supported here.”
“We need a bigger kitchen,” said Project Coordinator and Bonner Hunger Fellow Chelsey Wilson. “We feel like we’re really outgrowing our space in a dorm kitchen. We need bigger ovens, more supplies.”
Despite what constraints growth brings with it, the Community Kitchen Project has become very successful and rewarding for those involved.
“I think it’s just a really great opportunity for students,” said Helen. “Not all schools have this kind of learning available, and I think it’s really important to take advantage of it — to become a leader and get those skills before you go out into the job world.”
“We have a very diverse group that goes out (to volunteer),” said Chelsey. “All kinds of different majors, different backgrounds, and we all come together and we learn how to communicate with others that we might not normally, like 60-year-old veterans on the streets or moms who just want to talk to us with their kids.”
According to Chelsey, building such a relationship on communication is essential to what the Community Kitchen Project does.
“We don’t want to seem like a bunch of privileged people just handing out meals and walking away,” said Chelsey. “We want to build a relationship (with the people we’re serving). That way people can talk to us and get to know us. That’s what a community is about and that’s what we want to establish.”
Looking to the future, the organization hopes to be able to give out meals two days a week — Tuesday and Saturday. Not a lot of food services distribute meals on Saturdays, Chelsey said. However, Meriwether-Godsey is currently unable to donate food to the organization on Saturdays due to scheduling issues, according to Helen.
“There always has to be a manager on-duty to give us the food and release it,” said Helen. “So we’re looking at other places right now to give us food. We really want to incorporate more of our farmers and different things like that.”
When reflecting on the importance of the organization, both Helen and Chelsey commented on the unique experience that the Community Kitchen Project offers both to the volunteers and to the people the volunteers serve.
“When you’re dealing someone’s food source and where someone is staying that night, and you’re wondering if they’re going to be safe and if they’re going to be cold — it’s a very personal thing to be doing,” said Helen.
“Being open and accepting is a really important part of what we do. A couple of our volunteers have said that they come aback because it’s a family here. They want to be doing the work, but they also love the environment that it gives them.”
“A thing that makes us unique is that we’re not religiously-based or politically-based,” said Chelsey. “We’re just a group of students who want to come together and help our neighbors. These are the people we’re living next to in Greensboro.”
For more information on the Community Kitchen Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12