There’s rarely a CKWM cooking shift that goes perfectly right. Often times I will come in before the shift to find a beautifully laid out meal plan for the day with our cart stacked high with produce. It’s the calm before the storm. I stand there and admire for the peacefulness for a minute before wheeling the cart upstairs. I hit the lights, knowing I will be sprinting back down at least three more times that shift.
I guess you could say it all comes down to bad planning, but you don’t really know until you’ve run a cooking shift. Sometimes you needed more mashed potatoes, or more ziploc bags. Other times it’s because someone cut themselves and needs a bandage. And some other times it’s because something didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to and you have to brainstorm.
There are a lot of these “on-the-fly” decisions that you need to make every cooking shift. “Is this enough water”. Yes. “Should it look like this”. No! Turn it off! Along with countless other decisions on how long to cook, how to package, how much to make.
When I had first started it was these decisions that most scared me. I was amazed by how confidently the shift leader would answer, seemingly without a doubt in her voice. I now know that the source of her confidence was not only the experience of running so many shifts but more importantly the fact that every decision might be a wrong one.
Nothing in a kitchen every goes perfectly, but that should be expected. More important than being able to make the best decision is the ability to fix the situation and work with it when you don’t. Creativity, confidence, and quick thinking.
And that’s what it takes to cook.
Hi everybody! My name is David, and I am the Education Coordinator for the Campus Kitchen. I have been volunteering with the Campus Kitchen since my very first week at the College, and I have served on the exec board since my spring semester freshmen year.
When the Campus Kitchen at William and Mary launched in 2007 to provide meals for the four public housing neighborhoods in Williamsburg they did not receive a lot of interest from residents. About a year later the exec board decided to start Fun@5, a weekly after school program in which William & Mary student volunteers visit two of the neighborhoods we serve to spend time with the children. Through this consistent engagement they were able to bridge the gap between the campus and community, and more residents started to participate in our meal delivery program. The rest is history.
Fun@5 has gone strong for the past seven years since it began, and it is one of the best opportunities for William & Mary students to escape the campus bubble and make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need. As Arya wrote last week, there is a lot of poverty in Williamsburg that many people are unaware of. What I love about the Campus Kitchen is that students are able to have a direct, positive impact on this issue of poverty in Williamsburg on a consistent, weekly basis. This is exemplified through our Fun@5 program, as the children we serve look forward to Fun@5 each week, and I cannot overemphasize how much they admire the William & Mary student volunteers who take the time to visit them.
My personal experience with Fun@5, our mentor program, and field trips program has been the cornerstone of my college career. I have learned the value of consistency in community service, and how this consistency leads to strong relationships and mutual trust. I treasure every time I get to see the children in our programs, whether it is at Fun@5, driving them to campus for our mentor program, or taking them on field trips to places like the Williamsburg Fire Station or Virginia Aviation Museum, I love getting to know the kids better and watching them grow. Working with these children is definitely not always easy, and I often feel helpless and frustrated that we can only do so much when they are facing hardships, pain, and obstacles that no child ever deserves, but I always remind myself to focus on what we can do and the positive impact we can have. I encourage anyone reading this to sign-up for Fun@5 to see for yourself how rewarding it is to spend time with these incredible children.
What does it mean to live in poverty in the United States? The Census Bureau Poverty uses "money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is poverty." Although this convoluted definition of poverty remains constant throughout the United States despite different costs of living, it also changes year to year due to inflation.
Statistics may be able to give us a glimpse of what living in poverty really means. In 2010, approximately 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty while the rate was lower at 11.1 percent for the state of Virginia. The number tell an even more of a dire tale. Approximately 27 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics were in poverty compared to 10 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12 percent of Asians. Additionally, 16.4 million children under the age of 18 were living in poverty.
Williamsburg's rate of poverty has been steadily hovering around 19.5 percent for the past five year, a whopping 8 percent more than the state rate. The largest employer in Williamsburg, The College of William and Mary, has a large pay range with most in the moderate to low paying range. The industry in Williamsburg also suffers from seasonal fluctuations and high turnover. Finding housing under these conditions can be difficult.
For those living in poverty, finding affordable housing options is further complicated by the large number of student renters. The Williamsburg Redevelopment and Housing Authory (WRHA) has provided 104 subsizied housing spaces in Williamsburg in four different neighborhoods. Campus Kitchen at William and Mary delivers to these four neighborhoods, including Blayton Building, Mimosa Drive, Highland Park and New Hope Road.
During our years at the College of William & Mary which is located next to the historic Colonial Williamsburg, it is difficult to really understand the community beyond this bubble. Yet, it's important to examine and assess the needs of the local neighborhoods if we plan on being outstanding and active citizens. We have the resources, the materials, the expert opinions and the man-power to pave the way for changes. Campus Kitchen is part of that change. By effectively and consistently connecting the resources to the people in need, we hope to break the cycle of poverty in our community.
Despite going through the numbers, the original question still stands. What does it mean to live in poverty in the United States? A brief blog post can't tell you. What will be more helpful is going out into the community listening to adults and children alike. If you are unsatisfied with what you find, then let's work together to create solutions.
When you come to your first Campus Kitchen cooking shift you should walk away learning 3 things.
First when you go to campus kitchen you should learn about our mission. Taking food that would otherwise not be used and creating something out of it. Everyday of the week we have a shift (except Sunday) that allows our organization to run. Saturdays and Thursday we receive food donations. Monday and Thursday we cook. Tuesday and Friday we deliver. And Wednesday and Thursday we build client relations by going to the neighborhoods and playing with the kids. As a well-oiled machine we are able to provide over 200 meals a week to families in subsidized housing. While you don’t need to know every detail of the organization, the first thing you learn in the shift is who we are and what we do.
The next thing you should learn in a shift is the name of someone you didn’t already know. After Campus Kitchen as an organization is talked about, next comes the icebreakers. This allows everyone to get to say their name, year, and a fun fact. Some of the best icebreakers have been what is your spirit animal, super power, or what part of a car you would be. It helps break the ice (for lack of a better term). It allows people who have never met before to create a sense of a team. Now that we have a mission, and a team, next is the cooking.
The third thing you should learn at a cooking shift is how to cook. Whether you are cutting bananas for a fruit salad, or cooking chicken for the chili, you will learn something about food preparation on a huge scale. Our volunteers come in with various levels of experience. Some have never used a can opener before. Others have been cooking all their lives. But everyone learns something. It is a completely novel experience to cook for 100 people if you never have before. But since we work together as a team, with a common goal, everything falls into place.
So volunteering for a cooking shift starts with introductions of the organization and each other, and ends with knowledge gained about the food. These three things are the base of cooking shifts, and anyone willing to try!