Nurturing Sustainability, Community Growth Amid Rising Food Insecurity — Grady Newsource

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Nurturing Sustainability, Community Growth Amid Rising Food Insecurity — Grady Newsource
Campus Kitchen operations are outdoors, located in UGarden. (Photo/Cassie Jeter)

Athens-Clarke County is $12 million short of funds needed to meet food needs Georgia ranked ninth in the nation For the elderly, food insecurity.

As food insecurity in Athens-Clarke County continues to increase among citizens, the University of Georgia Campus Kitchen addresses the growing needs of community members with a commitment to promoting sustainable practices.

Food insecurity, which occurs when a family doesn’t have enough money or resources to buy the food it needs, has become a prominent issue in Athens-Clarke County. Based on 2022 US Census reports29.6% of Athens citizens are at or below the poverty lineWhich means that many citizens face inflated costs for necessities.

Nurturing Sustainability, Community Growth Amid Rising Food Insecurity — Grady Newsource
(Infographic/Cassie Jeter; Source: US Census Bureau 2022)

“They are food insecure for a number of reasons,” said Andy Biglia, director of the World Food Programme. Campus Kitchen Program Coordinator. “Maybe they can no longer drive, or they can’t cook, or maybe they have an income that doesn’t allow them to get the amount of nutritious food they need.”

UGA’s Campus Kitchen Hunger Relief Program receives grants from nonprofits, government and Food donations from grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Earthfare To prepare meals and deliver groceries to human service agencies in the community.

The role of the campus kitchen in meeting the needs of the community

Campus Kitchen partners with organizations such as the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA), a service organization that supports the needs of seniors in Athens. Currently, Campus Kitchen prepares home-cooked meals for 55 families referred by the agency.

ACCA is a Campus Kitchen beneficiary of several programs, such as Turkey Palooza and Meals on Wheels, both of which cater to families led by older adults and those with barriers such as income, transportation and physical disabilities.

With demand for food higher than supply, Campus Kitchen can provide support when needed. For example, through the Meals on Wheels program and how financing is processed, some families can only be active customers for a maximum of one year. But if the family is no longer an ACCA client, the organization will contact Campus Kitchen, which in turn will be able to service the former client with weekly deliveries.

“So we work with Campus Kitchen year-round. Turkey Palooza is a big annual event, but every week Campus Kitchen delivers to customers everywhere. Lesley Trier, ACCA’s director of programs and services, says: “They deliver ready-made weekly meals that they just need to heat up and also usually some groceries.”

They’ve been a huge, huge partner, they serve more than just us, but they’re one of our best partners.

Combating food waste

Campus Kitchen’s focus on food sustainability response to local food insecurity features Commitment to meeting immediate needs And its dedication to promoting sustainable practices In food production and distribution.

According to the Environmental Protection Department,Food waste accounts for more than 12%, equivalent to 800 thousand tons annuallyof waste deposited in landfills in Georgia. Waste contributes to air, water and soil pollution, which can release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment. Waste must be reduced in order to limit climate change and ecosystem degradation.

Food waste and environmental conservation approach

The first step Campus Kitchen is taking in terms of sustainability is reclaiming food from restaurants and grocery stores that would have been wasted if not donated. They then deliver meals and groceries to community members. In some cases, there may be produce and groceries left over. Campus Kitchen acknowledges that not everything is usable for meal preparation; Thus, they ensure that everything that is not usable becomes compost.

“[We’re] It is based in UGarden — an organic farm. “They follow very environmental practices in what they do from adding manure to the fields to cover the crops,” Bisceglia said.

Composting food benefits the environment by enriching the soil and ensuring that food continues to be used in a beneficial and sustainable way.

“We cook nutritious meals with vegetables, proteins and starches. That’s a big part of how we’re sustainable, but we also compost it, so it goes back into the soil. It’s better than that,” said volunteer Alex Ruano, who began volunteering at the Campus Kitchen in 2022. “It ends up in landfills where it’s in an anaerobic environment.”

With volunteer opportunities within the Campus Kitchen at UGA and the surrounding ACC community, there is a large pool of volunteers. Enrollment remains high, with over the course of all of 2023 the program has had nearly 1,200 volunteers, according to Bigelia.

Currently, the campus kitchen has been made 19,835 made-from-scratch meals, and 4,952 grocery bags delivered For families led by seniorsIt aspires to revolutionize sustainable food practices and continue to reduce food insecurity.

Kacie Geter is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in fashion merchandising at the University of Georgia.

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