BU Campus Kitchen volunteers help Wacoans, those in need find next meal

Abigail Brantley and Amy Lott of Campus Kitchen. Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
Abigail Brantley and Amy Lott of Campus Kitchen.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
By Rae Jefferson

Students from the Baylor chapter of Campus Kitchen Projects have found a niche as student chefs with the organization, which provides healthy meals for families and individuals in need. Canton senior Abigail Brantley, the organization’s kitchen director, and Victoria senior Amy Lott, a kitchen manager, spoke about the organization’s impact on the Waco and Baylor communities.

Q: What is your role within the organization, and how long have you been involved?

Brantley: This is my third year. I started out as a volunteer my first year — I showed up just because I wanted to cook and wanted to help people. My second year I was a kitchen manager, so I actually led the cooking shifts. This year, I am the kitchen director, so I oversee the kitchen managers and don’t have a specific cooking shift, but I’m in charge of making sure they have food and knowing what is in the pantry, and I’ll email out a meal plan to the kitchen managers every week. Sometimes I’ll drop by to see how they’re doing.

Lott: This is actually my first year to do it. I’m a kitchen manager, so I lead the kitchen shift from 2:30 to 4:30 every Wednesday. I’ll have people sign in, put on hairnets and then go through and see what food we have and make a meal out of it. I like to call it a mini “Chopped” competition because you’re like, “What can I do with oats and butter and radishes?” It’s really cool to just kind of come up with something.

Q: How does Campus Kitchen serve the Waco community?

Lott: Well, this summer I went to the boot camp for Campus Kitchens Project, which is the national organization in Washington, D.C. At the boot camp, they really taught that the mission of Campus Kitchen is to reduce food waste while empowering student leaders. We’re just trying to reduce food waste and teach people the importance of cooking.

Brantley: We serve a lot of people who are impoverished in the community, so that includes Salvation Army, Mission Waco and Family Abuse Center. We’ve found a lot of different organizations that directly help people who are in difficult circumstances, and we try to utilize all the extra assets that Baylor has in order to bring food to those organizations, and from there it moves on to those people.

Q: What are some of those “extra assets” Baylor has to offer?

Brantley: It’s called “dining room recovery,” which happens every day of the week, except for Saturday and Sunday. At 3:30, shift leaders will go to the dining halls and they’ll pick up as much as 150 pounds of food — fresh trays that weren’t touched — and then they’ll give it to organizations in the community.

Q: Where does Campus Kitchen get the rest of the food it uses?

Brantley: We have a community garden off of Ninth Street and James Avenue, and throughout the year — I don’t know how they do it — there are fresh vegetables growing. It’s harvested on Mondays and is brought to the kitchen to be used during our cooking shifts.

Lott: We also get a lot of food donated to us from food banks, and we use that to create meals for Mission Waco and Family Abuse Center.

Q: What is the process for volunteering?

Brantley: It’s really simple to come help out. They’ll usually send us an email telling us when they want to come. Volunteering is non-committal. You can come once if you hate it and never have to come again, or you can come every week and put it on your résumé.

Q: What motivates you to keep participating in Campus Kitchen?

Lott: I love to cook, so it’s nice to do something that helps people while doing what you love. This really gives me an opportunity to do that and to teach other people as well. A lot of people who come in don’t know how to use a knife, so I can give them pointers on how to cut an onion or things like that. I’ve also learned a lot about being committed to something.

Brantley: Well, you know that you’re cooking for people who otherwise wouldn’t be eating. It kind of gives you a little ambition.

Q: Is there any part of your ambition that comes from a place of faith?

Brantley: Yeah. I believe you’re supposed to use your God-given talents in order to help serve other people. My personal testimony — I’ve traveled a lot, and during the summer of 2010 I served as a missionary abroad on a hospital shift in Africa working with the dining staff. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a registered dietician. I came back to America, and I saw how many hungry and needy people were here in America, and specifically in Waco. I believe that we have a commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that means to feed our neighbors and help them out and everything. God placed a mission at our back door. Waco is a very impoverished community, and I think that as Christians we’re called to help each other out in that way.

Q: What do you say to students who are interested in either joining or just learning more about Campus Kitchen?

Brantley: I tell them to think about the last meal they had, and the fact that they’re provided for. God’s given them provisions to eat that meal, but some people just don’t have that and don’t know where their next meal is coming from — or they can’t remember the last time they ate something. Right here on Baylor’s campus, they have the opportunity to go and cook — even if they aren’t the best chef in the world, they can go chop some carrots or go for a delivery run. They can feed somebody, and it’s just something very simple they can do to help out the community.