Maria E. Caragiulo '16 greets the students and school administrators who are beginning to don plastic aprons and hair nets as they form at huddle in the kitchen.
“I’m really glad that everyone’s here today. And before we begin cooking, I would like for all of us to introduce ourselves and tell the rest of us what your spirit animal is.”
Laughter floats out of the kitchen into the long corridor.
This was the happy scene at the Presbyterian Church of Williamsburg Thursday as a group of volunteers took the time out of their busy schedules of classes and meetings to work with the Campus Kitchen at the College of William & Mary (CKWM).
“The Kitchen” as it is called by some, is an organization led by student volunteers who are committed to helping others in need. Their goal is to use existing resources to diminish the food insecurity rate, while also empowering individuals and fostering connections between the College and community.
“We serve 200 meals a week to local, low-income neighborhoods,” said Caragiulo, a volunteer shift leader. “It’s a great organization because we get to do good for others.”
According to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, a group that prides itself on building collective power within their network to create a hunger-free region, Virginia’s 11.8 percent food insecurity rate means that over 912,790 people do not know from where their next meal will come. In the Williamsburg-James City County area alone, the rate is between 5.6 percent and 8.3 percent.
The more volunteers that CKWM has, the more the group can assist the citizens of Williamsburg. Volunteers on Thursday ranged from Kerri Stanton '18, who is about to major in public policy, to Provost Michael Halleran and Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler.
“I believe that what makes the Campus Kitchen so great is the people involved,” said Anna Wong '18, public relations chair for CKWM. “Our whole process is a group effort, not just inside the kitchen.”
Each volunteer brings a unique quality that supports the CKWM services. Individuals are working on different tasks, based on their strengths. But they are all working towards the same final product: feeding people.
“The Campus Kitchen functions due to three core shifts,” said Wong. “Recovery (collecting/cataloguing donations), cooking (preparing the meals) and delivery.”
CKWM also knows that focusing on the problem of food insecurity alone cannot solve the overall issue of hunger for these families in the community. In addition to not having enough food to eat, kids living in low-income areas may have a shortage of role models. This is why CKWM also has a mentoring program for the children in two of the four neighborhoods it serves.
The mentor program provides personal, one-on-one connections between W&M students and children. Mentors serve as role models, tutors and friends to children who need positive influences in their lives.
“Our approach to food insecurity and the difficulties that surround it is holistic,” said Wong. “We want to build strong communities and individuals through compassion and education rather than perpetuate the issue with charity.”