James Overacker is a chef. His background includes fine dining and French cuisine. But his culinary training did not come from an institute. James is a Marine Corps veteran now serving the Campus Kitchen at Saint Louis University as a fellow with The Mission Continues.
James joined the Marine Corps in 1999 to turn his love for cooking into a career. He served for almost five years, which included tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he left the Marines, James moved to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where he was the executive chef at an upscale restaurant for two and a half years. He then relocated to St. Louis, Mo., where he became head chef at Rue Lafayette. However, a resurgence of a spinal cord injury he sustained while serving in the Marines forced him to take some time away from the restaurant business.
But James couldn’t stay idle for long. He applied for a fellowship with The Mission Continues, a St. Louis-based organization that awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans, empowering them to transform their own lives by serving others and directly impacting their communities. After he was accepted, he chose to serve his 26 week, 20 hour a week fellowship with the Campus Kitchen at Saint Louis University (CKSLU), where he is able to use his culinary training to combat hunger in his own community.
James began his service just last week, but has already made a positive impact on the food CKSLU serves. He has already done a meal delivery, where a client opened his meal and exclaimed, “Did you all get a new chef?” (James doesn’t take full credit for this, though, as CKSLU used a unique donation of lamb chops from a local Trader Joe’s in that particular meal.)
Not only will James spend many hours in the kitchen cooking, he will help CKSLU students expand their culinary repertoires and cooking skills over the next six months. He’ll likely impart a bit of French flair on the kitchen, as that was his most recent experience.
At the end of his six months with CKSLU, James hopes to have a sense of personal fulfillment: a sense that he used his skills to serve his own neighborhood (he lives steps away from Saint Louis University), just as he served his country through the Marine Corps.
Four of our Campus Kitchens just learned they will be joining the Campus Kitchen at the University of Massachusetts Boston in expanding their senior citizen outreach programs this fall with a brand new grant from The Campus Kitchens Project.
On Friday afternoon, the Campus Kitchens at Kent State University, the University of Georgia, Saint Louis University, the University of Massachusetts Boston and Gonzaga University were awarded $1,000 each to enhance or develop their programming to assist seniors with applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The grants stem from a larger grant from the AARP Foundation, which allowed 10 Campus Kitchens to increase their meal production and design new programmatic initiatives engaging senior clients, ranging from nutrition education classes to hands-on cooking demonstrations.
While each Campus Kitchen has the same goal of assisting a growing number of older adults in applying for SNAP benefits, they will each go about it in different ways that work best within their own communities. The Campus Kitchen at Kent State University plans to reach a larger number of seniors at area farmers markets, venues where they already have a consistent presence. The Campus Kitchen at the University of Georgia will expand its partnership with Georgia CAFE (Community Advocacy to Access Food Stamps for the Elderly and Disabled) so that they are able to work with a larger number of seniors on an ongoing basis. The Campus Kitchen at St. Louis University will expand the capacity of social workers at area partner agencies who already work with clients on SNAP applications by providing student volunteer support for SNAP outreach efforts. The Campus Kitchen at the University of Massachusetts Boston plans to work with seniors that already attend weekly lunches at area housing developments. Finally, the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University will build on the success of an existing community meal to add another meal on a new night that will focus solely on older adult clients.
Over the next four months, these Campus Kitchens will aim to reach 200 senior clients through efforts funded by this grant and enroll 40 of them in SNAP benefits.
We know that ending hunger will not come just by feeding people. We are proud that these five schools are taking the fight to end hunger one step further by assisting seniors with securing long term food benefits.
Four bands, five hours and over 120 people made for a successful Rumble on the Rooftop for the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University last Thursday.
As the sounds of Casey Rogers from Sunshine Disaster, Post Organic, The Bossame and The Longnecks with Nic Garofalo alternately floated through the air, crowds gathered on the rooftop of Saranac Public House to raise money for the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University. Gonzaga students and community members alike came out to support the Campus Kitchen, which raised money by selling entry tickets and raffle tickets for donated prizes. Raffle items included a night’s stay at the fancy Davenport Hotel, Spokane Chiefs gear and creations from local artists.
By the end of the night, the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University raised over $1,600 for their hunger-fighting efforts in Spokane, where they provide 3,000 meals a month to after school programs, low income seniors and homeless shelters in their community.
Thank you to Emily Paulson, coordinator for the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University, her team, Gonzaga University, Saranac Public House and all of their supporters for coming together for this event. Check out the great pictures from Rumble on the Rooftop in CKGU’s Facebook photo album.
a guest post by Mariah James, Campus Kitchens Project intern
Last week, the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga College High School (CKGCHS) held a tasting event for their senior clients, where students were able to spend time with clients and determine what sorts of dishes they love to eat.
During the event, seniors tasted new recipes while learning about healthy habits. The seniors were served a variety of dishes that were whipped up by CKGCHS students: kale salad, pasta salad, chicken three different ways (honey Dijon, herb baked and Italian), peach cobbler and fruit. By far, the favorite of the day was the kale salad, a dish packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber while still remaining low in fat and calories. Eating kale can help one maintain better health by lowering cholesterol, fighting against arthritis, and preventing bone loss.
While they ate, DC Central Kitchen nutritionist Lindsey Palmer spoke to the clients about the nutritious aspects of the meal being served, as well as basic guidelines for eating healthy. Lindsey pointed out that when cooking with fresh food, less salt and seasoning is needed because the food has more flavor on its own. If fresh produce is hard to come by, Lindsey noted great alternatives, like rinsing off canned produce to reduce the sodium or sugar content or buying frozen fruits and vegetables, as they better retain flavor and freshness than canned goods.
The event culminated with a screening of Super Size Me. Though none of the seniors had seen the film before, all of them could guess what eating McDonald’s for every meal would to do a person’s body. Many admitted to eating fast food such as McDonald’s (but in moderation!).
Through this tasting event, seniors learned more about nutrition and healthy eating to help inform their food choices outside of meals they receive from CKGCHS, while the students gained a better idea of what nutritional dishes the seniors will enjoy.
From compost to carrots, the students from the Campus Kitchen at Elon University (CKEU) aren’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty at three local farms.
Just fifteen minutes from Elon University’s campus lies Peacehaven Community Farm, a place that not only grows vegetables but works to cultivate relationships within its community. In fact, Peacehaven is in the process of becoming a home for individuals with disabilities. The farm will be the residents’ vocation, and proceeds from the produce will further support the endeavor.
CKEU volunteers are visiting the farm twice a week this summer to work side-by-side with others in the community composting, planting, weeding and harvesting as needed. In thanks for their time, Peacehaven donates produce to CKEU – which added up to 70 lbs in June alone!
After their time on the farm, CKEU students bring the produce back to their kitchen and prepare meals to be served at either Allied Churches of Alamance County, a shelter and soup kitchen, or the Kernodle Senior Center, a facility entirely dedicated to providing meals and activities for senior citizens. Roasted veggies and salads have become a summertime staple in these meals.
Additionally, CKEU receives donations of fresh produce from the Elon University Community Garden and Loy Farm, where they also spend time working the land to reap the delicious rewards.
This summer, CKEU will whip up more than 40 meals a week using this fresh, local produce. But their work doesn’t stop there. With a larger number of food donations, CKEU will be able to reach more members of their community and have a greater impact. CKEU students are bringing a whole new meaning to “farm to table” for their clients, and they need your support to continue to do so. If you are an Elon or Burlington-area resident or business interested in partnering with CKEU, please contact Steve Caldwell, Campus Kitchen Coordinator at Elon University.