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Campus Kitchen addresses students with food insecurities on campus


Students wait to campaign to join IU Student Government's executive branch. IUSG collaborates with the Campus Kitchens Project, which provides students with meals while addressing food insecurity and environmental sustainability at IU. Emily Putman Buy Photos

Senior Olivia Ranseen and juniors Amanda Kiefer and Lindsey Nelson carted 15 leftover trays of food from the IMU last Saturday to a food lab in the Student Building.

There, the group rescued the baked ziti, risotto, grilled chicken and potatoes and served it to students for IU’s new Campus Kitchen soft launch.

Aimed at addressing food insecurity and environmental sustainability at IU, the Campus Kitchen will provide students with meals.

One in every seven Americans are food insecure, and 40% of the food Americans produces is wasted, according to the website of The Campus Kitchens Project. The organization is a national program that works with schools to repurpose unused food into meals for their communities affected by food insecurity.

A substantial number of students are food insecure, meaning there is a limited amount of food, especially healthy food, available to them.

Ranseen began coordinating with The Campus Kitchens Project in September to address this issue.

“I was really concerned about food waste,” she said. ”It’s been something that I’ve been involved with since my freshman year with the residence hall student government and also with IU Student Government. I’ve worked on recycling and food waste issues but wanted to figure out another way to address them.”

Ranseen said she was drawn to The Campus Kitchens Project because it focused on food rescue. Food rescue is taking unused food that would go to waste and repurposing it for students.

“For example, if we have a lot of unused risotto then we could take that and add a vegetable and make sure it’s a good meal for students,” Ranseen explained the process.

She liked food repurposing because it addressed two major issues on campus, she said.

“It addresses sustainability because we have all this food which goes to waste because we tend to over-prepare food, as do most entities, and food security. So many students are food insecure,” she said.

Food insecurity has become a much more pivotal issue on campus, Ranseen said.

After coordinating with The Campus Kitchens Project, Ranseen began trying to organize various stakeholders on campus, she said.

She began working with organizations including Residential Programs and Services, IMU dining, the Food Institute and Sustain IU, she said.

“We have these food sources, but the hard part was figuring out where we take the food and how do we create a new meal,” Ranseen said.

Ranseen eventually found the Food Lab, which is currently housing the Campus Kitchen.

Ranseen and the Campus Kitchen have collaborated with IUSG and the Crimson Cupboard, a food pantry run by IU students, as well.

“We decided this program was an amazing idea because it helps ensure our campus is a sustainable entity and focuses on students with food insecurities which is a significant issue,” said IUSG Congress member Dominic Thompson.

Thompson worked with Ranseen to authorize the trial run of the kitchen, he said.

“Olivia was the force behind this project,” Thompson said. “Within a few days I was able to get eight different co-sponsors to sign the legislation and we were able to do this as a really quick process because the program is an amazing program that is so well laid-out.”

Ranseen hopes the program will scale up next semester, she said.  

“We’re hoping to do food distribution and food recovery once or twice a week,” she said.

“Our hope is to move into more of repurposing those meals into single-serving meals and giving those back to students through the Crimson Cupboard while also hosting some community meals,” she said.

The Campus Kitchen chose to have a community meal, inviting all students in order not to stigmatize students who are food insecure, she said.

The next community meal will be from 3 to 4 p.m. April 27.

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