Family Table at CKUK

At a university where 43% of students suffer from food insecurity, there is no reason to carelessly waste much of the food we purchase, cook, and pile on our plates.  As part of our mission to use repurposed food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities, we at the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky want our peers to recognize that food waste can be a sustainable solution to addressing food insecurity. Last week, coinciding with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the Zero Hunger Campaign launch week, we planned a Family Table week! Centered around increasing campus awareness for food waste and its connection to food insecurity, we planned the following events:

Weigh the Waste:

With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we partnered with UK Dining to weigh student plate waste. We found that on average, 0.124 lbs of food per person was wasted during the two hour lunch period at our two campus dining halls, totaling 231 lbs of food waste. Contrary to what one might expect, one volunteer even said, “This is the most fun I’ve had volunteering!” It was powerful to see students awareness change upon seeing food waste on a large scale (literally). 

Just Eat It Screening: 

In partnership with UK Dining, UK Sustainability, and UK Recycling, we hosted a screening the documentary “Just Eat It.” Two of our student leaders led a vibrant discussion on food waste following the screening, connecting the issue of food waste to the environment, the economy, and our society, and informing students how they can get involved with Campus Kitchens. 

Farm to Fork Friendsgiving:

This was the highlight event of our Family Table Week for it was a meal where everyone had a place at the table. With the help up 18 volunteers, we cooked up and served three turkeys, cranberry-apple stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and pumpkin pie to 155 UK students, many of whom regularly experience food insecurity. Additionally, in our theme to address food waste, we had an educational handout and guided discussion on how to cut back on food waste by making the most of your Thanksgiving leftovers. 

Game Night:

To wrap up the week, we hosted a game night with the seniors at the Ballard Griffith Towers, one of our bi-weekly clients. CKUK volunteers played Bingo with the residents to build a sense of community and combat senior isolationism, an often overlooked cause of food insecurity and malnutrition. In repurposing our leftovers, we gave out our leftover pumpkin pies from Friendsgiving to the winners. 

By the end of a busy week, we rallied support, collecting 536 signatures from students, faculty, and staff committed to reducing their own food waste. Even though our Family Table events wrapped up last week, our work is far from over. During the spring semester, we hope to continue increasing our regular operations and spreading awareness on issues of food waste and food insecurity here at the University of Kentucky!

By: Cora Kerber
Cora is the Americorps VISTA at the University of Kentucky. 

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