Campus Kitchens partners with Evanston restaurant to ease hunger in city

Chelsea Corbin

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The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern picked up about 100 pounds of donated food from Pret A Manger for the first time Tuesday and Wednesday, initiating a new Evanston partnership to reduce hunger in the city.

Pret A Manger, a sandwich shop at 1701 Sherman Ave., opened in January. The business immediately contacted food redistribution organization CKNU because London-based Pret A Manger requires all U.S. locations to donate leftovers. The collaboration marks CKNU’s first continuous food partnership with a local restaurant since its founding in 2003.

The partnership will add two pickups of day-old wraps, paninis, sandwiches and salads from Pret each week to be incorporated into CKNU’s thrice-weekly deliveries around Evanston. Katie Darin, CKNU coordinator, said weekly operations, which are based in Allison dining hall, require about 20 volunteers to prepare and deliver food.

“We were able to give each person a salad and a sandwich along with their regular meal,” said Weinberg senior Priyanka Seshadri, leadership team member for CKNU. “It was really, really helpful to have this Pret partnership going on.”

CKNU provides meals to local individuals, families and community congregations, “rescuing” more than 16,500 pounds of food last year from NU dining halls. Typical meals include vegetable, starch and protein products, and sometimes even dessert, feeding about 640 individuals since 2003.

“We rescue that food and then we serve it to individuals who need it,” Darin said. “We use food as a tool to connect with people in the community. Some of our delivery volunteers have a really great relationship with the people that they serve.”

Seshadri said those relationships are what kept her coming back to CKNU after she participated in a delivery run as a favor for a friend last spring. “A lot of times we actually go in and talk to our clients,” she said. “It’s really cool because they all have different stories and they all have something cool to say. Once you see them and you see how much you’re helping them out, it’s really hard to not come back.”

CKNU is part of a broader Campus Kitchens national organization with 31 chapters in college campuses across the country. Chapters work to redistribute unused food from dining halls to the local hungry. In 2011, CKNU served more than 43,000 donated meals in more than 2,600 hours of volunteer efforts.

“Campus Kitchens hits a lot of marks when it comes to eliminating food waste,” said Darin. “We take several hundred pounds of food from the dining halls that would normally be thrown away – and that’s just per month.”

Pret engages in food donation to act as “a good citizen,” said Micah Trapt, the Evanston restaurant’s team leader in training. “We have all of this food we can give out – why throw it away when we can give it to the homeless that need it?”

Starting in January, CKNU switched from Styrofoam to reusable Eco-Clamshell delivery containers to further reduce waste, Darin said. Previous arrangements with local Panera Bread and