Student group capitalizes on excess food

Volunteers Philip Spencer, Madeline Gregory and Julian Hunter transfer food from Memorial Dining Hall to a vehicle during a bi-weekly delivery shift. Baylor Campus Kitchen coordinates volunteers to pick up food from Memorial and Penland dining halls and deliver it to Waco Salvation Army.
Jed Dean | Lariat Photo Editor

From cafeterias to local charities, Campus Kitchens collects from dining halls to halt wastefulness

By Caitlin Giddens

While Baylor students waste countless dining hall meals, Waco families go to bed hungry.

But Campus Kitchens has made its mission to help solve both problems by recovering food from cafeterias and donating it to the Waco Salvation Army.

Leaders of the organization said they hope the organization fosters a new generation of leaders who are aware of the need for nourishment within the community.

“A large part of Campus Kitchen is trying to raise awareness that there is hunger in Waco because that’s something a lot of people don’t know,” San Antonio junior Amy Heard, president of Baylor’s chapter of Campus Kitchens said.

“A lot of times we hear people are hesitant to help donate food because they think these people in need may not be working. But one thing that universalizes people is knowing that kids in the area are going without, because no one thinks kids should go hungry.”

Campus Kitchens volunteers go to Memorial and Penland dining halls each afternoon to recover unserved food. After ensuring the food meets health standards, students transport it to the local Salvation Army.

“The amount of food we receive from the dining hall varies each week,” Heard said. “The last time I picked up food there were five pans of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, but sometimes there’s not as much. We take the food to Salvation Army, and then they can use it the next day. So when there’s a lot of food, it helps them for the next day. They don’t count on us, but we’d like to make it so they could.”

Volunteers said they are hopeful a solution will be developed that will further help families struggling to provide adequate meals to their children.

“If we can continue community outreach by donating student meals, that’d be incredible,” Victoria junior Ellie Keeling, a Campus Kitchens delivery crew leader, said. “I know I didn’t use all of my meals as a freshman. I think being at Baylor it’s easy to forget about the Waco community. Last year we delivered dinners to group of women and children who weren’t going to have a meal that night. We ate with them and talked to them about nutrition. They want to provide their families with nutritious meals, but it’s just not possible.”

Although Campus Kitchens is present on 29 campuses across the country, Baylor established the first Texas chapter in October 2008. Campus Kitchens was started in Washington, D.C.

“I hope Campus Kitchens grows and Baylor can influence other campuses in Texas to take this on,” Keeling said. “This is a brilliant organization for Baylor, especially because we’re close to the downtown area where the homeless and impoverished are.”

In addition to feeding those in need and educating struggling families on the importance of proper nutrition, Campus Kitchens strives to teach its volunteers how to be community leaders.

To foster these leadership skills, Campus Kitchens volunteers partner with Waco Arts Initiative, a local organization that provides art education to low-income areas.

“We’ve begun to provide healthy snacks for the kids while they work on their art projects,” Jennifer Spear, a Crawford senior and head kitchen manager for Campus Kitchens, said. “We make trail mixes and granola bars from scratch. This gives the kids something to look forward to each week.”

While one cooking shift prepares healthy snacks for kids, the other cooks a balanced meal to be delivered to the women and children at the Family Abuse Center in Waco.

Since Campus Kitchens is a Capital Area Food Bank partner, the organization is able to purchase at a low cost or receive free large quantities of food to supplement what they receive in donations.

Campus Kitchens has also partnered with the Graduate Student Association and Baylor to build and plant a community garden.

Produce from this garden will be added to snacks and meals and donated directly to Campus Kitchen partners. The first harvest will occur this summer. Students interested in getting involved with this program should email

“One of the big struggles Campus Kitchen faces is maintaining consistent volunteering and not having too many or too few people,” Heard said, noting too many cooks in the kitchen causes frustration among volunteers. “We’re just trying to get students aware that we are here and we’re here to stay.”