“The Campus Kitchens Project is a national nonprofit that empowers students to fight hunger and food waste,” shared Laura Toscano, Director of The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) during a recent interview about her role and how she advances the cause of sustainability.
Ms. Toscano has been working to advance sustainability at colleges, universities and high schools throughout the U.S. for nearly 5 years. She focuses on building partnerships with schools to use their kitchens on evenings and weekends utilizing existing resources that create sustainable solutions to hunger and food waste, She also empowers the next generation of leaders to implement innovative models for combating hunger, developing food systems and helping communities help themselves.
“Due to increasing public awareness about issues of sustainability, food waste and hunger, and innovative online tools available for interested students, we’ve seen a spike of growth in the number of campus kitchens over the past 4 years from 32 to over 60 locations,” Ms. Toscano shared.
Students involved in CKP now transform unused food from dining halls, grocery stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets into meals that are delivered to local agencies serving those in need. “By taking the initiative to run a community kitchen, students develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills, along with a commitment to serve their community that they will carry with them into future careers,” Ms. Toscano explained. “Each Campus Kitchen goes beyond meals by using food as a tool to promote poverty solutions, implement garden initiatives, participate in nutrition education and convene food policy events.”
Ms. Toscano credits the access to AASHE resources, newsletters and publications that allow the organization to stay on top of sustainability trends and events, as well as opportunities to present or speak at the annual conference to build awareness of The Campus Kitchens Project and boost networking opportunities. “I think the biggest challenge we’re facing right now, especially in this political climate, is to get millennials engaged in issues of sustainability and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. AASHE supports us in facing that challenge.”
“In all of our work with student volunteers, The Campus Kitchens Project gives current college students a chance to not only volunteer but to take on leadership roles. We do a survey every year to evaluate student leadership outcomes. We’ve found that students who are engaged in causes they care about can build the kind of leadership and entrepreneurial skills that help them land a job after graduation,” Ms. Toscano concluded.
How do you get students at your college or university involved in sustainability projects? How does your institution support service to its surrounding community?