Archive | October, 2012

A Rewarding Experience as a Campus Kitchen Intern

9 Oct

It is a brilliant idea. Industrial kitchens AND a large pool of potential volunteers (AKA students) itching to perform service hours make college campuses the ideal location to create a partnership in hunger relief. Thus, the Campus Kitchen project was born.

A national non-profit based out of Washington D.C., Campus Kitchens transform gleaned grocery store food or recovered cafeteria food and turn it into a well-rounded meal that meets nutrition criteria. The meals are then packaged and distributed to those in need within the surrounding community.

Hannah Sabella spent her summer as an Intern at SLU’s Campus Kitchen location. I sat down with her to learn more about this exciting and rewarding opportunity.

What can you tell me about the Campus Kitchen Project on SLU’s campus?

SLU’s Campus Kitchen, located in Reinert Hall, prepares 400 supplemental meals per week and hand delivers them to low income, disabled and elderly individuals located at Council Towers, Grand View Towers, Our Ladies Inn, the YWCA and Father Dempsey Charities.

The kitchen receives 8 tons of food per week from Trader Joe’s grocery stores. The food is expired or damaged food that is still edible but the grocery store can no longer sell. We then use this food to prepare the meals. We may purchase staples like cooking oil and sugar but the goal is to use as much of the gleaned food as possible, fresh food first, without purchasing anything additional. This makes meal prep Iron chef-like because we never know what ingredients we will have from week to week and there may be an odd combination of ingredients.

As the Campus Kitchen Intern, what were your duties?

During the summer, high school students participating in an urban plunge retreat rotated through Campus Kitchen as one of their work sites. I worked with these groups of high school students to cook 80-90 meals each day.

It was a lot of fun! We made a competition out of it and split into teams to see who could prepare the best meal using the ingredients on hand. Sometimes this included a mystery can as an ingredient. We then packaged the food and delivered it during that same shift.

The student groups rotated through every two days so there were a lot of new faces to manage. I was the only intern but I also had the opportunity to work with the Americorps volunteer assigned to the kitchen.

Were there additional learning activities associated with the role?

I received Servsafe certification and Campus Kitchens paid for it! Other than that, there weren’t specific learning projects or activities outside of the regular duties; however, the position itself offered a wealth of opportunities for personal growth. Time management skills were necessary to coordinate food preparation so that we finished each component of the meal at the same time. Plus, I gained experience people managing numerous groups of high school students.

Managing high school students is no easy task!

Had you volunteered with Campus Kitchen before applying?

No. I had not.

How did you find out about the position?

Someone mentioned the opening and I reached out to Jenny at Campus Kitchens, told her I was interested and sent her my resume.

Why did you want to participate with Campus Kitchens?

Initially, I saw it as an available internship and so I applied. Then, during the interview process, I learned more about what Jenny (Director of the Campus Kitchen at SLU) did and thought, this is the kind of career I want!

Was it what you expected?

Yes. The duties were spelled out rather well during the initial interview.
It was a great experience. I felt like I was doing something meaningful.

What aspect of the role made the most impact on you? How has the experience changed you?

I gained insight into urban poverty and food deserts. I would see the same people each week and developed a connection with them.

Also, I held a leadership role but at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for cleaning up the kitchen. I wielded the mop and bucket. It was humbling.

Do you have new insights into your future career in dietetics?

The experience with urban poverty solidified my desire to get my MPH and work in community nutrition. No one should be hungry in the USA.

It isn’t often that we are aware of the moments that define us. We don’t often get confirmation that we have chosen the right career path. Hannah’s experience as a Campus Kitchen Intern offered those moments of clarity. She was excited to go to work each day and thought “I am on the right path. I could do something like this one day.”

The only way YOU are going to gain this kind of insight is to get out there and get INVOLVED. It may be working in a campus kitchen, teaching kids to eat their vegetables or finding creative ways to channel your love of nutrition into an exciting NEW activity.

If you do want to try campus kitchen, you don’t have to wait for a summer internship. Sign-up for a volunteer shift and find out what it is all about. Who knows, you may have a meaningful experience like Hannah. Visit SLU’s campus kitchen webpage to learn more or complete the volunteer application form.

Hannah Sabella is a junior studying Nutrition and Dietetics. When she isn’t leading high school students in mock-Iron Chef competitions, she hits the airwaves on KSLU

By Jessica Moeller-Gaa, DPD Student in Nutrition and Dietetics