Every Thursday, several students and staff volunteers gather at the Trojan Dining Hall to collect unused, excess food items which were about to be thrown out and redistribute them to those who are in need. Lauren Cochran, the coordinator of the office of civic engagement, said the initiative is called the Campus Kitchen program and is an arm of the DC Central Kitchen, an organization which recycles food from around the Washington, D.C. area.
According to Cochran, food waste and food insecurity are serious problems in the U.S., and the Campus Kitchen program is a nationwide initiative to fight both. The food packs prepared by the volunteers are stored in a freezer for the night and distributed the next day to Troy Head Start, a federally funded preschool.
The volunteers are trained on basic food safety and the precautions which are required to ensure the quality of the food. According to Cochran, there is extensive record keeping of all details to help with these standards. Volunteers typically work for an hour to an hour and half each on Thursdays and Fridays.
A 2012 paper by the Natural Resources Defense Council said that while 50 percent of the land in the U.S. is utilized for food production and 80 percent of all freshwater consumed is utilized for the same, around 40 percent of all food in the U.S. ends up wasted.
According to Alabama Possible, a statewide non-profit, 21.4 percent of Pike County residents and 24.5 percent of children in Pike county are food insecure, which means they show multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake or reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet.
According to Clay Graham, a senior psychology major from Moulton and a staff member at the office of civic engagement, the Campus Kitchen program not only provides opportunities for students to tackle a serious problem plaguing the community, but also, it allows them to develop organizational and leadership skills.
The office of civic engagement also organizes “Backpack for Kids” where nonperishable food items are collected and put into a plastic bag and provided to the Pike County Boys and Girls Club.
The program has also initiated gardening and nutrition classes at Troy Elementary where students are informed about the nutritional value of different foods and are encouraged to eat healthy food. Last year, the children were taught how to grow vegetables which they sold at the 2018 Downtown Troy Fest.
Any interested student, staff or community member can sign up to participate in the Campus Kitchen program by signing up at vhub.at/cktroy.