Before she had ever heard of the Campus Kitchen at Marquette University, Donna Hietpas was up at 4:30 every morning, preparing food for the 12-15 women her nonprofit serves on any given day. Needless to say, the lack of sleep and being stretched so thin did not allow Donna the capacity to evaluate how her nonprofit could do more or work better. But now that the Campus Kitchen at Marquette (CKMU) has stepped in to help, Donna is getting a real night’s sleep, giving her the time and energy she needs to deepen relationships with her clients and thoughtfully evaluate her nonprofit’s work.
Donna is the director of Sister’s Program, a program of Milwaukee’s Benedict Center that reaches out to help women involved in prostitution and illegal drugs before they are arrested and caught up in the criminal justice system. While she has assistance from college interns and women who have gone through the program, Donna essentially runs Sister’s Program by herself. Just a few weeks ago, one of her interns asked Donna if she had ever heard of CKMU. Donna had not, and the student decided to make the connection, bringing a whole new definition to “student-powered hunger relief.” The student brought Amanda Parrell Kaczmarek, our staff coordinator of the Campus Kitchen at Marquette, over to Sister’s Program to meet Donna and to discuss ways they could partner together.
For just over a month now, CKMU has been whipping up healthy meals from food that would have otherwise gone to waste for the Sister’s Program’s clients. They deliver meals twice a week, supplying enough food to feed every woman who walks through the doors to seek programs or services. The women are now eating yogurt and salads from a farmers market instead of consuming unhealthy, salty packaged goods. They are exposed to a richer variety of foods and actually have input into what they eat each day, giving them more ability to take charge of their own nutrition.
But perhaps more importantly, Donna now has the time she wants to step away from her clients and evaluate, research, think and plan, doing the things that will ultimately strengthen her program and the services it provides. Amanda can already see the difference:
She is a truly awesome person, and I am so happy that we are able to serve her program. Every time we see her, she seems to get lighter and more energized. And the women that she works with have been really pleased with the food.
With this new partnership, students with the Campus Kitchen at Marquette are not only tackling food waste and hunger: they are stepping up to enhance another nonprofit’s ability to make a real difference in the lives of Milwaukee women.
The Campus Kitchen at the University of Detroit Mercy (CKUDM) serves the same 36 clients every weekend. During the academic year, CKUDM relies on a steady stream of student volunteers to cook the would-be-wasted food donated by Sodexo, their dining service provider. But when school is out, so are the student volunteers – and so is the dining hall food. This summer, with support from Ameriprise Financial, the dedicated student leaders of CKUDM are strengthening their volunteer and food recovery efforts so their clients still receive the meals they need every weekend.
Recruiting student volunteers at UDM during the summer months is tricky, as many students have gone back home, and those who are still in town are working or taking summer classes. This summer, the student leaders of CKUDM have made a concerted effort to seek out volunteers from other organizations and institutions to support their operations. CKUDM has worked with a church across the street from campus to educate its members on their mission and encourage them to volunteer in the kitchen. In addition, many faculty and staff members volunteer over the summer – not only from UDM, but also from other area colleges. In fact, these efforts have been so successful, CKUDM recruits an average of three new volunteers every weekend.
And then there’s the matter of recovering food when dining halls go dark. In the past, CKUDM has spent valuable resources purchasing food so their meal operations wouldn’t cease. But at the beginning of this summer, CKUDM’s student leaders officially kicked off a new food donation partnership with the College for Creative Studies. The college donates fresh food at least once a week to the Campus Kitchen, significantly reducing the amount of food CKUDM must purchase during the summer to maintain their weekly meal operations.
We’re proud of the commitment these student leaders have shown to the mission and work of their Campus Kitchen. If you’re in Detroit this summer, you can get involved with their efforts to serve 36 clients each week by volunteering.