A new Gonzaga University program is turning unused dorm food into meals for the needy.
Monday night, residents of the O’Malley Senior Apartments got salmon and wild rice with green beans, thanks to Campus Kitchen. Last week, student volunteers and Campus Kitchen staffers helped turn unused spaghetti sauce into sloppy joes.
A nonprofit with operations at six college campuses across the country, Campus Kitchen opened its GU program Aug. 25, and will officially kick it off with a ceremony today. So far, about 120 meals a week have been prepared and delivered to Spokane’s needy.
“It’s going awesome,” said Hannah Israel, the coordinator of the program at GU. “I’ve already had more than 10 volunteers for a cooking shift, which is actually too many.”
Organizers expect the program to grow as word spreads and donations and volunteers swell. Karen Borchert, national director of the program, said that some campuses provide thousands of meals a month in their communities.
The program was started with the idea that wasted food could be put to better use, in a program that teaches students leadership and charity. Organizers say Campus Kitchen tries to contribute to other programs that “empower” the poor – to help an organization that runs a domestic violence program focus a bit more on domestic violence because of the extra help with food, for instance.
The meals come together from a variety of sources – Israel calls it “potluck.” The campus dining service, run by Sodexho, turns over its unused food three times a week. It’s often food that was prepared but not served, such as a pan of noodles or rice, Israel said.
They supplement that with produce and dry goods from the Second Harvest Inland Northwest food banks, and other donations. Volunteers prepare the meals and deliver them. So far, the program has provided meals to the O’Malley apartments, the YWCA’s alternatives to domestic violence program, the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program, and the American Indian Community Center.
Ann Price, spokeswoman for Second Harvest, said the meals will add to the variety of efforts already under way to help the hungry.
“There are people who are concerned about where their next meal is coming from,” she said. “A program like this can help fill in some of that gap.”
Monday night’s dinner for the residents at the O’Malley was delivered by about seven GU students – a few more took meals to the YWCA. In the lobby at the O’Malley, students tested the temperature of the food to make sure it was below the bacteriological danger zone – inserting the thermometer into salmon and baked apples.
“I could eat that for dinner,” said Kara Connally, a sophomore majoring in business marketing and public relations.
Junior Jessie Hallerman and sophomore Katie Collins walked up and down the halls handing out the meals and talking for a few moments with the residents.
“It’s like a dorm,” Collins said as they walked door to door.
In one room, Marilyn Nible, 67, said she’s been receiving Campus Kitchen meals since they started delivering. She’s lived at O’Malley for about five years, dealing with health problems and the death of her husband last year. She tries to cook for herself one night a week, and spread that food over a few nights, she said.
“It’s a nice thing they’re doing, you know?” she said. “It does the young people good.”