There’s nothing quite like getting together with a group of friends and whipping up a delicious meal. Taking a few hours away from schoolwork to chop some veggies, slice some meat and mix cookie dough to create a spectacular dinner is certainly a worthwhile experience. But the icing on the cake is that this food goes back to the Canton community. This grand show of preparing, cooking and serving a meal in town is what the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is all about. Every Sunday and Monday we cook and prepare a (free!) hearty meal to be served at Canton’s United Methodist Church for the local community.
Every Monday I can look forward to seeing a group of smiling faces as we rally together to make a meal that may just make somebody else’s night. Many of these faces are old friends, but I’ve met a a bundle of new friends through volunteering with Campus Kitchens. A number of students take advantage of St. Lawrence’s Community-Based Learning (CBL) classes, which have a community service component. Often, CBL students help out with Campus Kitchens. Whether a class brings you to the kitchen on Sunday or Monday, or you’ve been a committed volunteer, all are welcome to come lend a hand.
If you aren’t cooking, chances are you’re serving! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to serve quite as much as I would like, but when I have it is always a fun time. Many of the folks who show up to dinner are elderly, perhaps down on their luck, or are looking for a sense of community. This brings together a very diverse group of people, all of whom are tremendously grateful for the good company and good food that CKP brings to Canton on Monday nights. Wonderful conversations are often had with community members reminiscing about the North Country or sharing the tales of their travels in their younger years. It's also nice to just help a family handle their kids or play with their toddlers, and remember what it’s like to be little again. And of course, having people eat and enjoy a dinner you prepared is always a lovely treat.
But where does the food come from? I’m very proud to be part of an organization that does wonders in both reducing food waste from our campus dining hall and supporting local farmers. CKP takes food that was not able to be prepared in our dining hall on campus (and SUNY Canton’s dining hall) and uses it to prepare the meals we serve. We also combine this with a plethora of seasonal produce that comes from a share CKP recently got from a local organic farm. This means that we are able to serve healthy, fresh food while simultaneously reducing food waste and supporting local farmers. It’s a win-win for everyone!
There are numerous volunteer organizations on campus, and CKP is definitely one of my favorites. It’s helped me get closer to the Canton community, make many great friends, and even become a more competent cook (when I first started volunteering, let’s just say I was more than a little lost in the kitchen). We always love seeing new faces in the kitchen, so swing by when you have the chance!
(CKP meals are served on most Mondays from 5-7 p.m. at the Canton United Methodist Church, 41 Court Street, Canton.)