September is Hunger Awareness Month, and VT Engage has a full schedule of events for students and the community to get involved. The month will culminate with the grand opening of The Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech is a new program embodying the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) through recovering excess food, preparing and delivering nutritious meals, and providing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) education and programming. The goal of Virginia Tech’s Campus Kitchen is to empower the New River Valley community through student-powered hunger relief.

Virginia Tech received a $5,000 grant last year to begin a pilot Campus Kitchen as logistics were determined. Joanne Amposta, a VISTA member working with VT Engage, is leading the charge this year, and she anticipates a successful first year.

“The rural community often has barriers of isolation, immobility, and income,” said Amposta. “With Virginia Tech imbedded within a community in need, we can help our friends and neighbors with food access issues by providing resources for them.”

Ryan Horn of Richmond, Virginia, a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. in marketing in the Pamplin College of Business, plans to utilize his marketing experience as the Campus Kitchen’s budget manager.

“Campus Kitchen is the epitome of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Horn. “When people think of hunger, many people think of only third world countries, not realizing that hunger is happening right here in our neighborhood.

“Campus Kitchen is not only able to address this problem by making food more accessible, but it also educates students and community members about the hunger problem in our area.”

While food recovery and diversion initiatives are already underway, Amposta and her team are working to move forward in cooking and delivering meals to those in need in the community. Working alongside other community partners, most meals created by Virginia Tech’s Campus Kitchen will be frozen to stock freezers and accommodate meal delivery times, allowing more students to get involved in the process.

“Our hope is that our relationship is fruitful and impactful enough that 100 percent of usable food is put to good use,” said Bill Hess, associate director for Dining Services. “We have been diverting our usable leftovers to two groups over the past few years, but working with VT Engage allow the subject matter experts to do the impactful work that it takes to run and expand the university’s positive impact on the local community at risk.”

Amposta assembled a student leadership team to spearhead the creation of Virginia Tech’s Campus Kitchen this fall. Composed of nine students, the team is divided into committees that volunteers can join, such as operations, administration, and university and community relations. The leadership team consists of students with extensive experience, but also students with just an interest in service and a passion for the community.

The launch of the Campus Kitchen facility will take place over three days, from September 28 to 30, and will include a visit from the national organization and inaugural cooking and delivery shifts. The grand opening will take place on September 30. The location of the Campus Kitchen has not been announced. Follow VT Engage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more information about launch events.

Students have the opportunity to team up with Virginia Tech’s award-winning Dining Services for food diversion volunteer opportunities within dining centers from 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To ensure food safety, all volunteers will participate in various trainings, including an onboarding training that Dining Services’ employees complete. For more information on volunteering and training, email Amposta.

In addition to the Campus Kitchen, VT Engage is offering several other opportunities for the Virginia Tech community to get involved in Hunger Awareness Month, including serving at food pantries, movie screenings, and much more. A full calendar of events can be found online.

Written by Holly Paulette.

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