The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education invites all students interested in promoting and enacting sustainability efforts at their campuses to join them for their annual Student Summit. Taking place October 9-12, 2016, the Summit will give participants the opportunity to explore career options in sustainability and ways to enact concrete change on their campuses. Attendees will also be able to network and collaborate not only with peers, but also with professional leaders in sustainability, as well as sustainability activists.
The upcoming one-year anniversary of the release of Laudato Si’ has inspired reflection on the impacts it has had on Catholics around the world, especially institutions of Catholic higher education. In the April 2016 issue of Connections, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ (AJCU) monthly newsletter, several institutions were featured as having responded to the encyclical with fervor:
Laudato Si’ was a “Game-Changer” for Creighton University, where professors of theology, biology, environmental science, cultural and social studies, and communication studies, and sustainability studies have experienced renewed interest and and energy in their studies and coursework.
Gonzaga University has taken a “Multidisciplinary Approach” to responding to the encyclical with “deep academic engagement around Catholic social teaching,” encyclical reading groups, inter-departmental panel discussions, lectures, documentary film screenings, and a renewed commitment to sustainability on campus.
Food justice and social justice have been major themes for Loyola University Chicago‘s response to Laudato Si’, as well as “eco-education” through conferences focused on poverty and climate justice, lectures, and assisting in the development of a new free online environmental textbook.
Marquette University has made a renewed commitment to “Going Green” through participating in research at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee, the hiring of the University’s first sustainability coordinator, assisting in the development of the above-mentioned textbook, the LEED certification of two campus buildings, and the focusing of Mission Week on care for creation and sustainability.
A reflection on the call to promote and fight for environmental justice, as inspired by Laudato Si’, written by Clint J. Springer, associate professor of biology at St. Joseph’s University.
In Fall 2015, ACCU highlighted several member colleges that participate in the Campus Kitchens Project to fight hunger and decrease food waste. Campus Kitchens Project is offering startup grants to additional institutions this year and have shared the following message with ACCU:
If hunger and food waste are issues in your community and you want to make an impact on both the community need and the waste on campus, consider starting a Campus Kitchen chapter at your school. Campus Kitchen students rescue food that would have gone to waste from their on-campus dining hall cafeterias and use that food to prepare and serve balanced nutritious meals to food insecure residents in their communities.
The deadline to qualify is February 5th. Please visit our grant info page to learn more about this grant competition timeline and guidelines. Schools that qualify will then submit a short video explaining the need in their community and how a Campus Kitchen will meet that need. Selected finalists will compete in a week long voting competition, where at the end of the week, the 3 school’s videos with the highest number of votes will each receive $5,000 to plan and launch their Campus Kitchen!
For Catholics, this phrase has been uttered countless times in the midst of prayer. And yet it rarely sparks a lengthy thought process about actual food. For many people, daily bread is a given, the next meal either waiting at home or picked up at a local restaurant or grocery store. But a vast number of others do worry about where their next meal will come from, both globally as well as here in the United States. The Campus Kitchens Project is one organization that is combating this problem on college campuses throughout the country.
Hunger and Catholic Social Teaching
Hunger and food security are issues that are closely tied to Catholic Social Teaching and its grounding principle: the dignity of every human life. As Catholic Relief Services’ campaign, Catholics Confront Global Poverty states, “The right to life for all persons, based on their identity as precious children of God, means that all people have basic rights to those things that are necessary for them to live and thrive, including the right to food.”
While the Church teaches that access to food is a fundamental right for all, statistics show that many families in the United States struggle with hunger. According to the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, the most recent data show that in 2012, nearly 50 million people in the United States resided in households that struggled to put adequate food on the table and approximately 50 percent of children living in the United States will live in a household that relies on government assistance for food by the time they are eighteen. It is evident that the right to food is being treated as a privilege in this country, and a privilege from which many are excluded.
Food justice is also intimately related to care for the environment, as it is a form of natural resource that we, as stewards of creation, are called to respect and share with all. Wasting food is just as egregious as wasting other natural resources, such as energy and water. That is why it is staggering to consider how much food is wasted every day while simultaneously one in six Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. An estimated 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted every year, which costs Americans more than $165 billion annually and accounts for 25 percent of national methane emissions.
The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is helping build a connection between food that is wasted and people who do not have enough to eat. The CKP uses kitchen facilities and student volunteers on college and university campuses to accept, store, repackage, and deliver food to community partners that would normally be thrown away. Students participate in every part of the process, from collecting the food to making the meals, and even dining with those who they serve. CKP is currently at 45 campuses around the country, five of which are ACCU members: Gonzaga University, Marquette University, Saint Louis University, Saint Peter’s University, and Walsh University. Merrimack University will be the sixth ACCU member to start a Campus Kitchen with the launch of their project this fall.
On its website, the CKP defines its mission by three goals: “to strengthen bodies by using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs of our community, to empower minds by providing leadership and service learning opportunities to students,… and to build communities by fostering a new generation of community-minded adults.” At Gonzaga University, this mission has proved to be successful. The campus chapter accepts food from several sources, including the Second Harvest Food Bank and on-campus dining halls, to provide nutritious meals for those who lack food security in the Spokane community. The website of the Gonzaga chapter tracks its effectiveness since beginning in 2005: The effort has recovered 98,362 pounds of food, served 92,297 meals, and logged a collective 15,294 hours.
The Campus Kitchens Project and Catholic Colleges and Universities
The goals of Campus Kitchens complement the social justice mission of Catholic colleges and universities. Emily Paulsen, Campus Kitchens’ representative at Gonzaga University, says that “the [university’s] notion of living a life for others fits right in with the work we do.” CKP’s model helps students live out the tenants of Catholic Social Teaching specific to hunger and food security in practical, transformative ways that benefit the students as much as those who receive a meal. Paulson describes how she has seen CKP affect the students who volunteer with the organization: “I have seen the students actually change their majors to degrees in social work because of their participation with the Campus Kitchen. We run a community dinner every Thursday night in downtown Spokane…The impact of students engaging with clients at the dinner is huge.”
Campus Kitchens’ congruence with the Catholic mission was an important factor to the Merrimack College students who brought the project to their campus, as well. Amy Byrne, one of the students instrumental in the process, describes how Campus Kitchens relates to her school’s Catholic identity: “The Catholic identity at Merrimack is focused on engaging our community through acts of compassion and education. Our Campus Kitchen is a natural extension of our values because it connects so many different partners in our community, and it addresses a number of social justice issues along the way.”
For the Merrimack College students involved in bringing CKP to their campus, the national office offered many resources that eased the process. One example is the $5,000 grant they received after winning an online contest offered by Campus Kitchens. These grants are offered several times throughout the year to help eliminate financial barriers that may arise in starting a school chapter. The Campus Kitchens Project also provides a Campus Kitchens Planner, an online tool that walks users step by step through the process and makes it easy to ask CKP staff for additional guidance. Byrne described how helpful the staff at CKP was, saying, “The head staff of the Campus Kitchens Project organization is so supportive and resourceful. They will do whatever they can to help you overcome obstacles along the way.”
The Campus Kitchens Project is one way of promoting the mission of Catholic higher education. It combats the issue of hunger through environmentally sustainable practices while inspiring leadership and solidarity in students. As Pope Francis said in his homily at the opening Mass of the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in Rome on May 12, “We ought to set the table for all, and ask that there be a table for all.” The Campus Kitchens Project helps colleges and universities set the table for all in a sustainable, empowering way.
Catherine Coffey is a senior at Boston College and was a Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in summer 2015.
Want to start a Campus Kitchen Project chapter at your college or university? Not sure where to begin? Be sure to catch one of the remaining Fall 2015 information sessions in November and December! More information about how to start a Campus Kitchens chapter at your school, including grant opportunities, can be found on the website, campuskitchens.org.
Sam Adams, a former member of the U.S. Navy and current senior at Wheeling Jesuit University majoring in Environment and Sustainability, is working on a project that could potentially help end the world’s deficiency of nutritious food. His project utilizes an aquaponics ecosystem which uses the waste created by fish to provide nutrients for plants. The plants then clean the water, which is returned to the fish tank. The system is inexpensive and energy efficient, and is currently being used to grow lemon trees, blueberries, tomatoes, and a host of other healthy foods, making it an ideal solution for areas in desperate need of nutritious food.
Read more about his project here, and read more about the issue of food security and how it relates to Catholic Social Teaching on the ACCU website.
Take to Social Media to bring more attention to this issue! Feel free to retweet and repost these messages from CRS:
Twitter: A meal makes a big difference. It encourages school enrollment, improves attentiveness & nourishes a child. #WFD2014
Twitter: The @USDA funded CRS #FoodForEducation programs are meeting simple needs, but are making a huge difference: http://bit.ly/1sg9I0E. #WFD2014
Facebook: A meal makes a big difference. It encourages school enrollment, improves attentiveness and nourishes a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded CRS Food for Education programs are meeting this simple need in 6 countries and are making a big impact: http://bit.ly/1pjOXuB.
Raise Your Voice! Following Pope Francis’ call, we invite you to get ready to raise your voice on behalf of our brothers and sisters who struggle with hunger once Congress returns to DC following the mid-term elections. It’s likely that two pieces of legislation related to addressing hunger, Agriculture Appropriations and Feed the Future, will be taken up by Congress the week of November 10. Learn about these pieces legislation, and consider advocating for them.
October is a time when many begin thinking of pumpkins, apples, and other fruits of a bountiful harvest. Food advocates in the US promote educational resources on our national food issues, but how can students learn more about sustainable agriculture around the world? Catholic Relief Services provides resources to farmers internationally, and they’re sharing their stories with interested supporters in the US. CRS’s approach to agriculture encourages farmers and communities to work together so everyone can prosper. Read the full story on their website.
October is also National “Farm to School” month! There are a lot of ways you can involve your university in learning about food sustainability and environmental justice. Food Day is on October 24 – it’s a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food. Catholic Rural Life recommends visiting the dedicated Food Day website to see a variety of resources to download. These include tips on planning an event, free tools to publicize your event, helpful fact sheets, or simply tips on how you can eat good, healthy foods. It even includes resources for college campuses and faith organizers! National Catholic Rural Life is mentioned in those resources with specific reference to their helpful Food and Justice study guide.