I want to thank everyone for giving me such a warm welcome as the new Director of The Campus Kitchens Project. When I look around at our staff, our volunteers, our Kitchen Coordinators, our funders, and at the community residents who benefited from over 250,000 meals last year, I am amazed at the power of this movement we have sparked across the country, and inspired to work alongside each of you to help it grow in the coming years.
The timeliness of our efforts cannot be underestimated. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 14.5 percent of American households currently experience food insecurity, and these rates are astonishingly higher for Hispanic and African American households. In a nutshell, this problem is creating a dangerous and self-perpetuating downward spiral of food insecurity, obesity, poor health, unemployment and poverty.
What I see is potential for us not only to provide healthy meals to our communities, but to grow the kind of sustainable programs that will solve systemic underlying problems and help lift people out of poverty. I see programs that offer an opportunity for civically minded students to address the most critical issues in their community with sustainable and innovative solutions.
The first ten years of The Campus Kitchens Project were focused on getting it right. The next should be focused on spreading this national movement, taking our best solutions and replicating them to the areas that need this promising program the most. We’ve come a long way. But of the ten most food insecure states, we only have Campus Kitchens in three of them. Regionally speaking, the Southwest is one of the most food insecure regions, and we don’t yet have a Campus Kitchen there.
When you hear from me, the question I will ask will not be, “How many meals did you serve?”
The questions will be, “How are you creating a program that addresses the root causes of food insecurity in your community?”
“What are the best aspects of your program’s design and operations that we should replicate in more schools? How are you generating sustainable funding for your own program?”
“How are you using your Campus Kitchen to train students as the next generation of leaders in the food justice movement?”
These are the opportunities and the challenges ahead of us, and I’m honored to tackle them with you.
– Laura Toscano
Laura Toscano came on board in October 2012 as the Director of The Campus Kitchens Project, a national initiative that works to engage students as the next generation of food justice leaders by empowering them to recover food from campus dining services, solicit in-kind donations, and deliver meals to the surrounding community. At The Campus Kitchens Project, Laura brings her leading experience in nonprofit management to build a solid base of national support for this promising solution to our national food insecurity crisis, and allow it to expand to more higher education institutions across the country. Prior to her work with The Campus Kitchens Project, she has worked in the field of social enterprise nonprofits for eight years with a focus on asset based community development, pro bono volunteerism, cross-sector engagement and scaling strategy for nonprofit organizations. Laura holds a BA from Yale University.