The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 18, 2005

Kitchen help

Campus Kitchens help feed hungry

MANKATO — By Robb Murray

Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — She came as just another work-study student looking for a way to earn some cash while going to school.

But instead of filing papers in some academic department on campus or answering phones, freshman Allie Houfer is happy to be doing something with a little more substance, even if it’s not exactly what she had in mind.

Houfer is one of the dozens of students engulfed in the Campus Kitchens phenomenon at Minnesota State University, the program that takes unused cafeteria food and distributes it to a handful of agencies in town that work with the homeless and hungry.

The program is just getting started, but already they’re delivering 110 meals per week. By mid-December, they’ll be delivering more than 200. Eventually, possibly 200-400.

“It really has affected me,” Houfer said. “I didn’t expect it to hit me this hard.”

Campus Kitchens came to MSU for the first time this semester. A $67,000 grant covers some expenses and the work of a graduate assistant, but most of what the program needs is donated, such as the residence hall food that each day is prepared but not put into a cafeteria line in MSU's residence hall kitchens.

So far, student volunteers have been easy to find — all volunteer slots are filled for the rest of the semester, and slots are filling up fast for next semester.

“We usually tell people, ‘The one thing you’re not going to have to worry about is volunteers,’” said Karen Borchert, the Campus Kitchens director, who came in from the home office in Washington, D.C., to check on the Mankato program. “Food is really basic. It appeals to a number of basic instincts. And this is fun work. It’s social as much as anything else.”

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