Five miles doesn’t seem like much. It’s a short car ride for some, and a morning jog for others. But for student volunteers in the University of Georgia Campus Kitchen program, 5 miles from the main campus in Athens takes them to Montine Brightwell’s doorstep to deliver food. The realization that such a vast community need is so close to campus is a wakeup call for students, according to volunteer Allison Vita.
“You don’t expect to drive five minutes out and see people living with so much less,” said Vita, a fourth-year health promotion and behavior major in UGA’s College of Public Health.
Every two weeks, Campus Kitchen volunteers travel to Brightwell’s home to deliver a made-from-scratch meal and bag of groceries. The meal is prepared by UGA students using donated food from grocery stores and farmers markets. Students also harvest fresh produce from the UGArden, the university's student farm.
Brightwell is one of many senior adults struggling with food insecurity. According to the Athens Community Council on Aging, one in every five seniors in Athens is classified as food insecure. This means they lack access to healthy, adequate and affordable food. The lack of access is not just a financial barrier but can also be transportation issues that prevent seniors from going shopping or health problems that limit their dietary options.
In 2010, a study by the ACCA and the foods and nutrition department in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences found that 78 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren were struggling to provide food for their families. This began the partnership with the Campus Kitchen Project, a national organization that partners with high schools and colleges across the country to implement food recovery plans and engage students as volunteers to prepare and deliver meals.
UGA’s Campus Kitchen program is based in the Office of Service-Learning, which is jointly supported by the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. Campus Kitchen at UGA is unique because it is the first to focus on senior food insecurity, a community-specific need.
In the 2016-2017 school year, students so far have collected more than 42,000 pounds of food and made more than 13,000 meals from scratch. Of the recovered food, 25,000 pounds has been redistributed as is to the program's clients or donated to other local organizations around Athens.