Campus Kitchens brings Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of Evanston residents

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

While many Northwestern students cram for the exams professors are squeezing in before the holiday, one group is preparing to feed hundreds this Thanksgiving.

Campus Kitchens volunteers, who recover leftover food from the dining halls to donate to individuals and organizations in need in Evanston, spent Saturday collecting more than 205 pounds of food for Thanksgiving dinners. As shoppers entered the Grand Food Center in Winnetka, volunteers asked them to purchase items that could be donated to prepare Thanksgiving dinners for 700 people and grocery bags for 21 families.

“It’s actually overwhelming how much food we get,” said Campus Kitchens president Sarah Suh, a Weinberg junior. “A lot of these (Evanston) residents can’t provide themselves with their own Thanksgiving meals. We have the resources, the manpower and the hands to pull this event through every year.”

Campus Kitchens, which began in 2003, is one of 33 chapters at universities across the nation, said Katie Darin, who was hired as the NU Campus Kitchens coordinator last February. The organization holds the annual “TurkeyPalooza” campaign nationwide before Thanksgiving.

SESP sophomore Leigh Kukanza first became involved with Campus Kitchens while working on her senior project in high school. Now part of the group’s leadership team, she volunteered at Saturday’s event and said Grand Food matched the donations the group received. She said the food will either be prepared for individuals or will be packed in grocery bags with recipes so families can enjoy preparing it together.

Suh explained that the meals will either be delivered to individuals that receive weekly dishes from Campus Kitchens or through other Evanston organizations that assist in hunger relief, such as the Salvation Army and the YWCA.

Darin said Saturday’s event was just one part of the NU TurkeyPalooza campaign. In mid-October, members of the Interfraternity Council assisted the organization in going door-to-door to collect food from Evanston residents, she explained. She said the Thanksgiving dinners will be prepared Sunday at the group’s central kitchen in Allison Residential Community, where members convene weekly.

“We will be cooking everything from mashed potatoes and stuffing to pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pies,” Darin said.

Campus Kitchens is not only active during the holiday season. Darin explained that the organization, comprised of 16 team leaders and 25 weekly volunteers, recovers food from all campus dining halls, prepares meals in Evanston and then delivers them to organizations that assist with hunger and individual clients who cannot afford their own food.

Suh said she thought the organization was necessary to the NU community because many students waste food in the dining halls and Norris University Center when they could be thinking more about the Evanston community.

“We’re the only organization that deals with hunger relief and is dealing with hunger in the local community in a sustainable way,” Suh said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how many chapters Campus Kitchens has across the country. There are 17 chapters in the United States. The Daily regrets the error.