Campus Kitchen at Elon University, a community program to serve meals to those in need in Alamance County, opened for the first time on Tuesday when top university leaders prepared lasagna dishes during a special College Coffee in the 1889 Grill Room.
With Elon President Leo M. Lambert and his wife, Laurie, taking the lead, university administrators including Provost Steven House and Vice President for Student Life Smith Jackson collaborated to fill several containers of food as dozens of students crowded into the restaurant to watch.
The food assembly line marked the culmination of a project more than a year in the works and championed by Laurie Lambert. Elon’s Campus Kitchen is an affiliate of the Campus Kitchens Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit with locations at more than 25 campuses, each of which provides thousands of meals while offering supplemental programming to address root causes of hunger.
Campus Kitchen fulfills its mission of using service as a tool to recycle food, empower families and individuals to make changes in their lives, and provide leadership opportunities to students. Its operations at Elon will share space with dining services at the Colonnades dining hall.
Allied Churches will be the university’s primary community partner and food recipient during the first year of operation. Allied Churches is a non-denominational organization serving Alamance County’s homeless and disadvantaged citizens while challenging and empowering them to become self-sufficient.
“Every once in a while something new comes along at Elon, and Campus Kitchen is an example of this kind of thing, that reflects the soul and the spirit of this university,” Lambert said in his remarks to a packed room prior to the food preparation. “That is this project. It’s about giving back. It’s about recognizing that we are a part of a broader community, that we don’t live in a walled community and that we have responsibility to others who live outside the borders of Elon.
“When you think about it, it’s tough out there,” he continued. “This is a tough recession. There are a lot of families that are going without that were dependent on Allied Churches and other kinds of food assistance programs to feed children and keep families going. This is a way the university can take its resources and deploy them in a really responsible way that makes a difference.”
The project was funded last fall by a $50,000 gift from ARAMARK, the university’s food service vendor. ARAMARK will also provide resources including available food, storage space, general expertise and equipment to support the initiative. The gift comes as ARAMARK marks its 50th year of partnership with the university.
“We know that this project will benefit many people in the community, but it’s also an opportunity to further our sense of service and leadership for students right here on the campus,” Jackson said. “Students … who are managing all aspects of the project, from recruiting volunteers to running the workshops for preparing the food, packaging the food, and delivering the food. It reinforces so many of Elon’s values. The value of service. The value of leadership. The value of conservation of resources that are precious – and our great sense of community.”
As part of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, Elon’s Campus Kitchen is coordinated by staff member Holly Anderson. It will be run by a group of 15 student volunteers, including junior Amber Mathis, an education major from Asheville, N.C., who directs the program and is in charge of volunteer recruitment.
Volunteers will meet in the Colonnades kitchen one night each week this semester to produce the meals.
“I was just amazed and so excited to see the entire Elon community come out for this,” Anderson said. “I saw students who were eager to sign up, and staff and faculty looking for ways to support the program. The energy around the Colonnades, and 1889, was so optimistic. I was in awe.”