Campus Kitchen puts student excess to use

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Campus Kitchen Marquette began in 2003 as a service initiative aimed to combat hunger throughout the Milwaukee area. Now, the organization has more than 200 volunteers who meet in the basement of O’Donnell Hall and prepare 500 to 600 meals each week to be delivered throughout Milwaukee.

Amanda Parrell, the campus coordinator at CKMU, said her passion for eliminating hunger developed after taking part in both local and national food service programs.

“After volunteering with Midnight Run during my undergrad at Marquette, I spent two years teaching in Malawi with the Peace Corps,” Parrell said. “Both experiences showed poverty and hunger in different lights, but I felt I needed to do something. I came back to MU to pursue a Masters of Arts in Public Service.”

Now, the Campus Kitchens Project has spread to 31 schools across the country, according to the CKMU website. Parrell said in 2011, CKMU distributed more than 27,000 meals to those in need. While CKMU primarily works out of O’Donnell Hall’s basement, the project also can be found at 12 other service sites in the Milwaukee area.

The meals are prepared using leftover food collected from The Brew, Marquette Place and other dining establishments across campus and then sent to hungry children and adults at the Casa Maria Hospitality House and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Parrell said Marquette students are the reason CKMU continuously succeeds.

“This generation has the potential and the power to do so much; it is awesome to see them harness their boundless energy and take action,” Parrell said. She said urban areas like Milwaukee are often plagued with food scarcity stemming from poverty.

According to 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Milwaukee was named the fourth poorest city in the U.S., with thousands collecting food stamps.

Parrell said CKMU volunteers are “truly called to service” and dedicated to serving the hungry in Milwaukee.

“Even students who are performing required service have joined us after their hours are complete,” Parrell said.  “I think it’s the Jesuit spirit of service that is prevalent throughout the university.”

Emily Paulson, the national program manager for Marquette and the coordinator for Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University, said the organization takes a serious look into the needs of a community before starting a new branch.

Paulson said Campus Kitchen surveys student interest and what on-campus support is available. She said CKMU maintains a pool of regular volunteers.

“Marquette has always had a very strong and active leadership team,” Paulson said.

Laura Mark, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she continues to volunteer at CKMU because of the value the organization brings to Milwaukee.

“As I volunteered throughout my freshman year, I grew to understand how smart the Campus Kitchen mission is,” Mark said. “The more I learned, the more I realized that it’s an incredibly simple, sustainable organization.”

Mark said one of CKMU’s main missions is eliminating food waste.

“Marquette’s branch of Campus Kitchens is particularly focused on food recovery and redistribution,” Mark said. “We try to find creative ways to use as much of that food as possible in creating meals for our partner organizations.”

CKMU volunteers may work anywhere from one shift per semester to every evening, as flexibility is a valued part of the organization.

While many college students may loathe preparing their own meals, Mark said she enjoys her time in the kitchen and looks forward to her shifts each week. She said she will lead one cooking shift and one delivery shift in both preparing and sending food to the hungry each week this semester.

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