Troy University’s Office of Civic Engagement is continuing to address food insecurity by collaborating with Campus Kitchens.
Campus Kitchens is an organization that repurposes dining food to redistribute meals into the community.
The organization began as a national network of students on college campuses who wanted to do something in their communities to address food insecurity and campus kitchens.
TROY began their campus-based organization in 2014.
Although the national organization dissolved in 2019, civic engagement has continued their mission.
“Our office has still been doing this important work since we had such an infrastructure after having the program for five years and having the support of Trojan Dining and our dining provider Sodexo,” said Lauren Cochran, the coordinator of the office.
On Thursdays, the organization works with the dining hall to package the food to distribute throughout the community on Friday.
“Our dining provider saves any excess food for us before we even walk in there,” Sammy Collins, who oversees TROY’s Campus Kitchen, said. “That part is really important, or we wouldn’t be able to do this work.”
The mission begins with two separate teams who grab food the dining hall workers have placed in the freezer.
“We take it up to the kitchen and we have volunteers put all the food into to-go containers,” Collins said. “We try to make a full meal out of it so having an entree, a starch and a vegetable.
“If we have just the entrée, we’ll take the containers back to our office where will fill the rest of it up with our canned vegetables so that they have a complete meal.”
On Fridays, the volunteers take the meals to Head Start and take donated items from Backpack for Kids to the Boys and Girls Club.
Any extra meals go to the senior nutrition center.
“It’s important to give back to the community,” Collins said. “Knowing that we’re blessed with having food and letting other people know that we care so they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”
“Often, we take for granted the essential work that food plays in our lives, and food is really a basic human right and a source of human dignity,” Cochran added. “So many times in college, we walk into this incredible dining facility and we have so many options.
“It’s important for students to recognize and realize that that’s not the case for everyone.”
A volunteer that worked with the office during the fall semester expressed how her family depended on programs that the Office of Civic Engagement provides.
“That was such an important reminder for our staff and the volunteers in our program to hear because oftentimes we do lose sight of that,” Cochran said.
Students can get involved with the office’s programs by donating to Backpack for Kids, volunteering and by donating using the organization’s Amazon Wishlist, or by contacting Civic Engagement.