Sunday morning cooking for Campus Kitchen is perhaps not what you’d think. They don’t actually cook all of the food during the cooking session; most of it is pre-cooked by dining and donated in the form of leftovers. This is a positive thing though – it means that leftover food, instead of being wasted, is given to people who are hungry. Sometimes they need to cook a little more food to round out the nutritional value of the meal (this week they had to make an extra tray of rice to include more carbs) but overall, the food they donate is food that would otherwise be thrown away. During the week they store it in coolers in Runk’s kitchen, and check the temperature daily to make sure it stays within safe ranges. Then on Sunday the cooking shift comes in – bright and early at 9:30 am – and puts it in the steamer to freshen it up.
When I walked in to talk to this week’s shift, I found two girls and two guys, the girls in hairnets and everyone in aprons. “Hey!” they exclaimed, grinning and friendly. Aubrey and Ariel, the shift leaders, then proceeded to show me around the kitchen, a gleaming metal maze that clanked and hummed with the sounds of ovens, freezers, and slamming metal doors. Around us Runk’s kitchen staff worked diligently to prepare Sunday brunch.
“175 for the vegetables!” called out Aubrey, who had her head in the steamer, checking their temperature. Ariel explained how they have to be really careful with their paperwork, making sure to record the temperature of everything they served, to ensure that the food was safe to eat. “Potatoes are 170!” called Aubrey again. There are also a lot of logistical issues to working in the kitchen – simply forgetting to switch the steamer from “manual” to “timer” can cause problems.
There were some humorous moments during the shift, too, like when one of the vegetable trays got stuck in the steamer. After the food is steamed, it’s placed in a heater, which is then placed in a warmer box to trap the heat. These big boxes are finally loaded into volunteers’ cars and driven to the Salvation Army, where the same volunteers serve the food to Charlottesville community members.
The enthusiastic CK staff, with all the food loaded into warmers, has a reason to be proud. The group is starting a new initiative that helps the environment, U.Va. dining, and the poor community of Charlottesville. Leaving the morning shift, I felt glad that I’d gotten up early on a Sunday to be a part of this experience. Campus Kitchen can only be described as a strong new group with a lot of momentum and even more potential.
Editor’s Note: Campus Kitchen is a new student volunteer opportunity collaborating with Madison House, if you’re a student interested in volunteering with Campus Kitchen email Aubrey Mignone at firstname.lastname@example.org or Katie Pollard at email@example.com.