The Campus Kitchen at VT Engage has reached its goal in diverting over 132,000 pounds of uneaten food from Virginia Tech dining halls. This food goes to various charities across the New River Valley to help feed those in need.
The Campus Kitchen is a VT Engage program that largely deals with unserved food that has already been cooked by the various dining halls around Virginia Tech. The food is first sorted and placed into coolers to keep it from spoiling. It is then put into insulated food storage bags to be transported to charities. The redirected food is taken to charities using club vans and the members’ cars. VT Engage is Virginia Tech's center for service-learning, leadership education, and civic engagement. It often partners with nonprofit organizations to help develop students’ leadership skills.
“The bags are like those used by pizza delivery drivers,” said Nick Kaloudis, a junior majoring in building construction who is also a student leader for the Campus Kitchen.
This process is handled between two groups within the Campus Kitchen, the diversion and delivery groups. The diversion group handles the sorting and packaging of the leftover and unserved food from the dining halls. Dining hall staff themselves are trained in diversion techniques and help out this group. The delivery group takes the prepared food to locations across the New River Valley and helps these locations store and distribute the foodstuffs.
Each group has a set of student leaders who help organize and direct the group. The leaders also make sure participants are well and able to perform the duties required of them. There must be at least two leaders for each shift, with multiple shifts throughout the week.
Most of the food processed by the Campus Kitchen is perishable leftovers and unserved food. The Campus Kitchen will take a large variety of food that might be difficult to normally redirect because of its system of coolers and insulated bags combined with efforts of the members. Because of this efficiency, canned food and nonperishable items are taken by another group in VT Engage to be distributed as part of food drives and other events.
“The most important part of the kitchen is definitely the students,” Kaloudis said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
The Campus Kitchen is currently looking for new student leaders. Interested students can apply through the GobblerConnect link on the VT Engage website and by emailing or calling an officer located in the site directory. Students who wish to participate in packaging or delivering food but are not interested in a leadership position can sign up for a shift through the website. Diversion shifts are on Mondays and Tuesdays and delivery shifts occur Monday through Friday.