Students bustle in and out through the back door, carrying bags, boxes, cans, crates; other students unpack and stack hundreds upon hundreds of cans, all separated into a variety of sections, each devoted to a quintessential aspect of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The students, working steadfastly out of the basement of the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church on Friday, were part of the William & Mary Campus Kitchen's annual “Turkeypaloozza” event, which provides Thanksgiving meals to local families in need.
The event is made possible largely by the Black Law Students Association, which handles an annual competition among law students to motivate donations. This year, the BLSA event resulted in the collection of 4,663 canned and boxed food items and coupons, which were delivered to volunteers with the W&M Campus Kitchen on Friday afternoon. That evening, Thanksgiving meals — complete with turkeys — were delivered to approximately 20 families in three local neighbordhoods. About 60 student volunteers came out to help during the six-hour Turkeypalooza event.
Campus Kitchen is a nationwide organization with a chapter at William & Mary that provides meals and groceries to Williamsburg residents that are in need. With a wide variety of members both in age and experience volunteering, Campus Kitchen provides the opportunity for all students to make an impact in their community.
Wendy Guo ’18 is passionate about the visible difference that Campus Kitchen is able to make in Williamsburg.
“[Campus Kitchen] is a good way to actually make an impact directly on people in our community. Especially if you go on delivery shifts, you get to interact with people in the greater Williamsburg community” Guo said.
Guo found just how much poverty affects the community only after joining Campus Kitchen.
“I didn’t really know anything about food isolation or poverty in Williamsburg before I joined, but after I joined I became really invested in it. I found that it was a really important issue that affects a lot of people in Williamsburg especially,” said Guo.
Arya Dahal ’17, client relations chair, expressed that Campus Kitchen seeks to go beyond simply providing meals.
“We deliver to these families Tuesdays and Fridays, but we also have a mentorship program, like a ‘Fun at 5’ program where college kids go and interact with the kids who live there,” said Dahal.
Dahal stressed that the students involved in Campus Kitchen serve meals to the families, but also serve as role models to the children.
“The mission is basically to break the cycle of poverty instead of just giving food," said Dahal. "We are providing a support system for the kids, so they can look up to us and say ‘Hey, these kids are going to college and we can be like them one day,’ and that's basically what the goal is. The meals are basically an excuse to do that."
Turkeypalooza is one of the ways that Campus Kitchen makes an impact on Williamsburg families in need. By delivering the various ingredients involved in a traditional Thanksgiving meal, Campus Kitchen allows families to focus on the purpose of Thanksgiving, instead of whether or not they can put Thanksgiving dinner on the table, said Guo.
“Thanksgiving is a time when families are supposed to come together over a dinner table and share things,” said Guo, "and for people who are living in low-income housing that are not able to get the meals, we want to be able to do that part for them so they can be able to just spend time with their families."