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Campus Kitchen at W&L Wins National Community Impact Award, Grant for Older Adults

Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has won both a national award for its impact on hunger in the community and a grant to address hunger among the area’s older adults.

The national Campus Kitchens Project presented its Community Impact Award to W&L at the second annual Food Waste & Hunger Summit in Athens, Georgia, recognizing the local project’s measurable impact on food insecurity and food waste.

The Campus Kitchens Project has also awarded CKWL a share of a three-year, $625,000 grant from AARP to develop innovative, sustainable solutions to increase food security for older Americans. Campus Kitchen projects at nine other universities will also participate. In addition to providing more meals for older adults, the grant will enable CKWL to create solutions to the root causes of hunger among older adults, ranging from transportation and mobility issues to lack of access to fresh produce and isolation.

In presenting the Community Impact Award, the national Campus Kitchens Project noted that 4,460 residents of the area around Washington and Lee struggle with consistent access to adequate food and that the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee serves almost 25 percent of them.

“It shows just what a difference it can make to leverage the existing resources of the local university in traditionally under-resourced rural areas,” leaders of the national Campus Kitchens Project said in making the award. “The face of food insecurity is different in every community, but whether serving seniors, youth, fellow students or families in need, has not only offered great services to individuals, but has had a broader population-level impact.”

The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee expanded its services this year to 300 additional clients and now serves more than 1,000 community members each month. The growth resulted mostly from its Backpack meal program for schoolchildren and the creation of a new Mobile Food Pantry, which started at a third location last month and will expand to at least three other locations during the summer.

The Backpack program covers all seven elementary schools in the Rockbridge area. Volunteers deliver backpacks filled with non-perishable food to each school for distribution to children eligible for free or reduced lunches, providing them with nutritious snacks for the weekend.

The Mobile Food Pantry distributes fresh and non-perishable food items monthly to remote areas of Rockbridge County using a large refrigerated truck and volunteers’ vehicles. More than 35 student and community volunteers have distributed 2,591 pounds of assorted grocery items to 143 families in three communities in Rockbridge County during the 2014-15 academic year.

CKWL began fighting hunger and promoting nutrition in 2006 by recovering and distributing food that would otherwise go to waste, using it to provide balanced meals for low-income residents of Rockbridge County. It operates out of the University’s Global Service House and is directed by Jenny Davidson, coordinator of student service learning.