The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 28, 2013

Campus Kitchen keeps cookin' over holidays

Volunteers welcome while campus shut down

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — Holiday week or not, the lower level of Crossroads Campus Lutheran Ministry was abuzz with activity this week.

A collection of Minnesota State University students, staff and community volunteers were packaging meals for the Campus Kitchen program.

Among the busy volunteers in the kitchen was a brand new student to MSU, Kelly Ukpoma, and Mankato residents Lisa Coons and her daughter, Eleanor Coons-Ruskey, among others — all of whom answered the call to help out during a time when Campus Kitchen needs them most.

About seven or eight of them lined up around the kitchen island to fill containers, with Denise Billington-Just buzzing around to coordinate activities and remind everyone to “smile like you're having fun.”

“We are having fun,” Coons said.

Billington-Just, MSU assistant director of community engagement, said mostly students volunteer with Campus Kitchen during the academic year. But when campus shuts down during the break, volunteers are needed to help with the program, which operates as usual during the holidays.

Campus Kitchen rescues food from area restaurants and other vendors and delivers the meals to people in need, from children to the elderly. About 150 meals are packaged and delivered each week, Billington-Just said.

A great deal of the food has been coming from Red Lobster, Chipotle, Olive Garden and Tandem Bagels, she said. Pasta is often a featured meal that the program delivers.

“You can always count on pasta,” Billington-Just said, adding that they'd made this week's meals more holiday themed. “This week we're giving them a break on the pasta.”

More than 6,000 meals are served in the Mankato area each year, and more than 7,000 pounds of food are rescued from landfills, according to the Campus Kitchen website.

There's still time to volunteer over the break to pick up food from area restaurants, to package meals and to deliver meals.

Packaging shifts run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; deliveries are 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays; and food rescue and facility management is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.

For more information or to sign up for a shift, visit the Office of Community Engagement website at and click on the link at the right; or call 389-5789.