Monday, September 24, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not: Augsburg’s Campus Kitchens provides food at every step of the production process.

Food to share, food to grow, food to buy and food to know: For Campus Kitchens director Brian Noy, this mantra has become the basis for a growing organization that works to reduce waste and encourage healthier eating habits for all people—whether they can afford to pay for it or not.
For four years, Noy has operated the Augsburg College chapter of the national organization, beginning with rescuing leftovers from the school’s cafeteria that would otherwise be thrown away and delivering them to those in need via community centers, homeless shelters and the like.
“Everything we do is around civic engagement and connecting the campus and the community using food and then doing everything to provide for the health of the community,” says Noy. “[We work] to make healthy food accessible, and to make sure people know what to do with healthy food.”
In Noy’s hands, this basic concept has evolved into a bigger, more complex organization that encompasses a community garden complete with classes for kids, a farmer’s market and a mission to bring sustainable food from garden plot to plate. With the help of a USDA grant, this summer CK’s operations dramatically increased. Since last year, its number of paid interns increased from one to ten, providing specialized attention to each of the CK philosophy’s four prongs. Also in July, CK was able add 4,000 monthly meals to its usual community contribution of 1,000.
Located on the Augsburg grounds, CK’s garden features 80 plots and about 200 regular gardeners and visitors, providing space for summer-camp classes. Interns help youth of various ages (many of whom live in tower apartments and have no experience with gardening) learn how to grow and prepare vegetables. Additional classes are offered to help all the gardeners—who include students, staff and faculty from Augsburg, and community members and organizations—improve gardening and cooking skills.
The USDA grant also resulted in more varied meals for the young people in classes. “Until this year, we’d teach [kids] how to do something and then they’d have the bologna sandwich every day of the week that they’d get from the school district,” adds Noy. “So our idea this year was to have them cooking something but also have that be reflected in the lunch that they have every day.”
The garden has in turn helped kick-start the Brian Coyle and West Bank Farmers markets at Augsburg, coordinated by Noy’s staff. This year, the markets are able to take electronics benefits transfer (EBT) “Market Bucks,” an innovative program that maximizes the amount of food CK’s constituency is able to purchase.
Looking ahead, Campus Kitchens’ greatest needs are staffing help and a bigger kitchen—they’re always open to new volunteers, and new ideas about how to feed and serve the community.