Baylor’s Campus Kitchen helps those in need this Thanksgiving

By Jeffrey Swindoll

For some, the homeless in particular, the holiday season has little to be excited about. Many are left out in the cold without a home, a job, or even food. Baylor’s Campus Kitchen however, plans to reach out to those in need during the holidays by providing a meal on Thanksgiving.

Jenni Moore, an Baylor alumna who graduated in May 2013, works full-time as the coordinator of Campus Kitchen at Baylor. She shared what students should do for the event, how Campus Kitchen prepared for Turkeypalooza, a Thanksgiving food drive, and what it means to her to have it at Baylor.

Q: What do you do as coordinator for Turkeypalooza?
A: I oversee a lot of the stuff that our students do. So we have a specific Turkeypalooza student leader, Joanna Lee. She did a lot of talking with student government and different groups on campus. I collect the donation cans in my office, and I work a lot with the Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry in Waco. Which is where we get the families we donate to. In short, I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff making sure it all works out.

Q: How much has Turkeypalooza grown over the years?
A: I think last year Campus Kitchen served around 150 families in Waco. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a recurring event, but we’ve seen a lot more students this year getting involved. Whether it’s sororities, clubs or organizations on campus, they’re getting involved more this year than before.

Q: How are you improving the way you reach out to people this year?
A: One thing we wanted to do this year that was either started last year or thought of as an idea last year, is being able to reach out to the huge percentage of homeless people. If we give them a frozen turkey, they have no way of cooking it. What we wanted to do this year is give them gift cards to nice restaurants that we know will be open on Thanksgiving. That way they won’t have to worry about cooking their own meal, but still having the means to have a thanksgiving meal.

Q: What can students bring or donate? How can they get involved?
A: They can donate canned goods or they can buy a whole Thanksgiving basket for $35. Donations end on Friday, but on Saturday we’re gathering volunteers to actually assemble the boxes with the donations. We’ll split up all the canned goods, turkeys, rolls and pies we have, and we’ll donate and deliver them sometime the next week.

Q: Depression is said to be an epidemic during holiday season. A study by Hawton in 1997 shows that 26 percent of suicides in holiday season are a result of family issues, and 20 percent from financial issues. Are the people in those kinds of situation part of why Turkeypalooza is important?
A: If you fire up statistics on the depression rates during the holidays, or people that don’t get to see their family on their holidays, you see that there are a lot of people in one of those categories. I see that the two may have a coorelation in some way. Having a Thanksgiving meal gets families together. Even if it’s just for one day that we’re able to provide for them a meal that they can sit down and enjoy together, that’s really a great thing, and I think it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m excited about it.

Q: When did you start coordinating for Campus Kitchen?
A: I graduated from Baylor in May with a nutrition degree, and then I got a job working with Campus Kitchen. So I started as the coordinator in July, but I volunteered before when I was an undergraduate.

Q: Why is it called Turkeypalooza?
A: Campus Kitchen is a national organization. I think there are 33 campuses all across America that are part of Campus Kitchen. The central office in D.C. named it Turkeypalooza. So it’s something that all the campuses across America have and it’s called that for each of them.

Q: Do you know the other schools that participate in Turkeypalooza?
A: I know that Baylor is the only school in Texas because it’s the only Campus Kitchen in Texas. I can’t say I know all the other schools that participate in Turkeypalooza, but Campus Kitchen makes sure all their campuses are prepared for it.

Q: How does Campus Kitchen prepare you?
A: They give each of us resources, and the information we need to do things like Turkeypalooza. They do these things called “webinars”- online seminars that all the campuses can log onto and watch Campus Kitchen present all they want us to know. Everybody can see Campus Kitchen’s screen, look at their powerpoint, and watch them explain how to do all these things live.