The University of Georgia’s Campus Kitchen trailer rolled into north Athens last month, bringing food, information about available resources and a bit of festivity to the Fowler Drive community just as Athens-Clarke County students returned to school.
The first event, a neighborhood resources fair, promoted healthy eating and living. Local organizations were on hand to talk to residents about WIC, SNAP and the Athens Area Diaper Bank, programs designed to benefit low-income families. UGA Campus Kitchen student volunteers and staff also served everyone a healthy spaghetti dinner.
At the next stop, a back-to-school event at Fowler Drive Elementary, Campus Kitchen provided smoothies and sent everyone home with a meal prepared earlier that day.
For some in the neighborhood, it was the first time they had heard of Campus Kitchen, a program out of the Office of Service-Learning, which reports to the UGA vice presidents for instruction and for public service and outreach.
“It’s great that there’s a service like this that supports families,” said Dollie Miller, mom to a fourth grade student at Fowler Drive Elementary School. “There are so many families, grandparents out there that need the help. It’s great that y’all will be coming out more.”
The trailer allows student volunteers to have more face-to-face contact with the people they serve, said Sarah Rucker, a master’s student in landscape architecture from Fairburn, Georgia.
“This way I think that there will be more of a chance to talk with people and hear what they need us for and where,” said Rucker, who will oversee community outreach using the food trailer this year.
The Fowler Drive events came about during a brainstorm session with Patrick Howard, a board member of Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens.
“How can you combine trying to expose people to eating better, how they can eat better and different ways of eating better? Howard said the group discussed. “That’s where the food trailer comes into play. It gives us an opportunity to do all of that through partnerships where we can expose people to a meal they can taste, how to prepare it and then connect them to resources.”
Campus Kitchen has primarily served food insecure families in the Athens area, many of them part of the Athens Community Council on Aging’s Grandparents Feeding Grandchildren program.
Student workers and volunteers typically prepare hot meals and pack bags of fresh produce and healthy groceries to deliver to families weekly. The trailer will supplement that service.
“The trailer brings this food truck, festive atmosphere,” said Campus Kitchen Coordinator Andie Bisceglia. “It makes an inviting space for people to come to neighborhood events, get resources and be able to feed their family.”
Bisceglia and Rucker have other new ideas involving the trailer, such as cooking meals on site for people at the Advantage Homeless Day Center on North Avenue and using it for on-site meal preparation at UGArden.
“Campus Kitchen is really trying to give back and pour back into the community that the university is a part of,” Howard said. “They’re not just existing in the community, but they’re an active part of it.”