Kent State community fights back against hunger

Sophomore psychology and biochemistry majors Tom Sonnanstine and junior psychology major Emily France carry food into the kitchen in the Women’s Center on February 7, 2019.

David Williams

Empty fridges, bank accounts running low and bills waiting to be paid — it’s a reality for at least 36 percent of students attending four-year colleges in the nation, according to a study from the Hope Center, a nonprofit research center.

It’s why some Kent State students, like Emily France, believe it’s their mission to fight back against food insecurity on college campuses.  

“The joy you receive when you help a random stranger obtain a meal is indescribable,” wrote France, a junior psychology major, in an email.

Despite a full course load and other extracurriculars within her major, France volunteers at Kent State’s Campus Kitchen, a student-run kitchen that donates meals to the community.

“Volunteering at Campus Kitchen has been the best decision of my undergraduate career due to being able to help my community,” she said.

In Fall 2018, she began volunteering at the Campus Kitchen on the second floor of Beall Hall twice a week. France originally signed up to satisfy her sorority’s community service requirement, but also saw volunteering as an opportunity to get more involved with the community.

After two months with Campus Kitchen, France was promoted to supervisor and started volunteering four times a week. She noted her work with Campus Kitchen has helped her build leadership skills, communication skills and new friendships.

France recently began making deliveries to the Women’s Center food pantry at the Williamson House. Campus Kitchen prepares bread, pastries, fruits, vegetables and anything else the pantry might be short on and donates it to the Women’s Center. The pantry then hands this food out to community members in need every Thursday.

Where to go for meal assistance

ON CAMPUS:

Women’s Center in Williamson House

1200 E. Main St. every Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment

Campus Kitchen Pantry (CKP):

2nd floor kitchen in Beall/McDowell Halls  Monday 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.  Please bring bags or other means to transport your food.                                          The Campus Kitchen also provides emergency support. Email: [email protected]

KENT STATE STARK

Flash’s Food Pantry Kent State Stark Campus Center Lower Level:

Fall & Spring Hours: Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.                                                  Summer hours: Tuesday and Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

OFF CAMPUS

Kent Social Services:

1066 S. Water St.                                  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Thursday 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (every third Sunday, meals are offered at Kent United Church of Christ instead).

The Lord’s Pantry at Trinity Lutheran Church:

Get groceries to take home.                          600 S. Water St.                                        (330) 673-5445                                           Last Saturday of the month 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Riverwood Community Chapel Get Groceries to Take Home:

1407 Fairchild Ave. (330) 678-7000

The Salvation Army 2 Direct Distribution:

Get groceries to take home:                        1972 Summit Rd. Ravenna, OH (330) 296-7371 1st Wednesday of the month 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Upper Room Cultural Development Center:

Get a meal – get groceries to take home.      3090 State Route 59 Ravenna, OH.             (330) 296-2178                                           Last Thursday of every month, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Blackhorse Baptist Church

Get groceries to take home.                        6360 Bridge St., Ravenna, OH 44266.          (330) 297-7860.                                     Second Tuesday of the month, 11 a.m to 3 p.m.

Christian Cupboard-Ravenna/Center of Hope

Get a meal – get groceries to take home.      1034 W. Main St. Ravenna, OH 44266.        (330) 297-5454.                                      Pantry: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Appointment Required                                    Hot Meal: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 11:30 a.m. and Thursday 4:00 p.m.

Brimfield Community Cupboard:

Get groceries to take home.                        1235 Tallmadge Rd. Kent, OH 44240.          (330) 673-7597.                                   Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30 a.m. to 11a.m.

Kentway Apartments:

360 E. Summit St. Tuesday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Under Akron’s All-America Bridge:       

Friday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.                        Volunteers pass out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Kent Social Services:                                 

Get a meal – get groceries to take home.      1066 S. Water St.                                      (330) 673-6963.                                      Pantry: By appointment Monday-Friday.          Hot Meal: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays 4 p.m. to 5 pm

Trader Joe’s is one of the largest food donors, with volunteers picking up food four times per week, said Amanda Woodyard, the director of Community Engaged Learning (CEL).  

The closest Trader Joe’s is in Woodmere.

“Our volunteers (make) a 45-minute drive there and (45 minutes) back to campus,” Woodyard said, “but we recover from Trader Joe’s over 65,000 pounds of food a year.”

Food is also donated by local farmers at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

Woodyard said CEL is trying to work more closely with Aramark to recover food from Dining Services.

“That conversation could use some love,” Woodyard said. “We want to be able to recover that food from catering and the residence halls, and then be able to distribute that for our meal programs. Why would we not use the food that’s already here on campus that is otherwise going to be thrown in the trash can?”

Campus Kitchen works very closely with Flashes Fighting Hunger — an on-campus organization dedicated to finding ways to fight food insecurity on campus. The organization, established in 2017, is composed of students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

“We really want to educate people on the issues associated with food insecurity,” Woodyard said.

Woodyard hopes, in the coming years of the university’s research, data-gathering and other efforts will be more centralized at Kent State. She believes Kent State’s Great Places Initiative can be a great help. The initiative came as a result of a 2016 university-wide climate study focused on identifying strengths and barriers the university faces in becoming a more inclusive and engaging place for students.

“We’re really looking to them to pave the path for housing security, food security and removing financial barriers to staying enrolled,” Woodyard said.

The climate study found students’ basic needs were a primary concern, and it affected retention at the university, Woodyard said.

“As a result of this research, the university created a Great Places Initiative. … There is now a sub-sub-committee which focuses on basic needs for students, faculty and staff,” Woodyard said.

The pantry at Kent State’s Campus Kitchen welcomes volunteers to their cooking shift every Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. The Campus Kitchen pantry is open every Monday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., and Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. on the second floor kitchen of Beall and McDowell Hall.

Woodyard mentioned how the university is also branching out into the Kent community to combat food insecurity. In their newest initiative called Kentway Cafe, CEL has begun preparing meals for residents of Kentway Independent Senior Living, a subsidised housing development for residents 55 years old and older. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from AARP and the Campus Kitchens Project, Kent State’s Campus Kitchen is able to to provide more than 18,000 meals per year to residents.

“In the next few years, we hope to see that number climb to 19,000 or 20,000,” Woodyard said.

Woodyard also hopes to bring entertainment including music and comedians to the apartments when meals are served Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Meals are available to more than just residents as well; Woodyard noted anyone in the community who needs a meal may have one.

The Campus Kitchen also provides meals to a food insecure population in downtown Akron every Friday 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. in their Bridge Program.

David Williams is a senior reporter. Contact him [email protected]