The Columns

Washington and Lee’s Campus Kitchen Receives Walmart Grant

— by on July 5th, 2011

Serving more than 600 meals a week to people in the community, the students of Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) will take all the help they can get. The Rockbridge County-based organization recently received a $25,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program to help them do more to fight hunger in the community.

Opened in 2006 and run by a student leadership team, CKWL is one of nine Campus Kitchen organizations dedicated to combating hunger in the local community by recovering and reusing food that would otherwise go to waste.

“This grant is going to be incredible for the Campus Kitchen operations in terms of being able to expand our reach and being able to allow our student leadership members to step up,” said Jenny Davidson, CKWL coordinator of student service-learning.

The grant, which will fund CKWL’s Weekend Backpack Snack Program as well as the purchase of a vehicle, is part of the Walmart Foundation’s commitment to spend $2 billion through 2015 to support hunger-relief efforts in the United States.

As a Feeding America food bank, CKWL already receives from Walmart around 2,000 pounds of food each week that is unrelated to the grant, including post-dated produce and meat as well as slightly damaged goods. Along with donations from the kitchens at Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, Campus Kitchen is able either to turn this food into meals, to freeze it or to donate it to other food pantries in the area, including the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA) Food Pantry.

In 2009, W&L’s Campus Kitchen started the Weekend Backpack Snack Program, in which volunteers fill backpacks with food and deliver them to elementary schools in the area.

“The students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch are guaranteed lunch Monday through Friday at school, but when they go home we don’t necessarily know what the situation is,” Davidson said. “By sending home food Friday night, we ensure that they are at least going to have food over the weekend.”

Currently, CKWL’s backpack program operates only in Natural Bridge Elementary School and Fairfield Elementary School, but with the grant money the organization hopes to expand to the rest of the elementary schools in Rockbridge County.

“The backpack program is different than the other things we do with the Campus Kitchen because there isn’t nearly as much interaction with clients,” Davidson said. “One of our favorite things is taking a hot meal, serving and getting to know the kids at an after-school program, or adults at one of our partner agencies.”

The purchase of a vehicle for the organization, which it would use to pick up and deliver food, would be invaluable, Davidson said. While there are 18 members of the student leadership team for the organization, many don’t have their own cars. A vehicle will allow students to cover shifts on their own and take on more responsibility.