Colorado College’s Community Kitchen, one of the oldest student-run community kitchens in the nation, will have additional volunteers when it serves its weekly meal on Sunday, Oct. 9. Joining the regular volunteers will be CC alumni living in Colorado Springs and members of the Student Alumni Association.
The Community Kitchen, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in April, provides a hot meal to the city’s hungry and homeless every Sunday afternoon at Shove Memorial Chapel. It averages about 200 guests each Sunday, said Colin McCarey ’12, one of the three kitchen managers. The kitchen also will host an Open House from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15 during Homecoming and Parents Weekend to show off its many renovations.
This year the kitchen was selected by The Independent newspaper as a recipient of its Indy GIVE! campaign, which guarantees the kitchen at least $2,500. The goal of the campaign is teach organizations how to become self-sufficient fundraisers and how to best deliver their message to the public. There are several requirements involved with being a recipient, and it is suggested that the organization host an event that engages the community. To that end, those involved with the Community Kitchen plan to construct a “tent city” on campus on Nov. 13 to raise awareness surrounding the issues of hunger and homelessness. In keeping with the situation, the construction material will be cardboard, which participants will assemble into shelters.
McCarey, an anthropology major from Oak Park, Ill., said there has been a consistent rise in the number of guests since he started working at the Community Kitchen, where he became a kitchen manager his sophomore year. “Since 2008, there have definitely been more families and more children coming in for meals,” McCarey said.
The Community Kitchen began on Easter Sunday in 1992, when a group of concerned students began serving a free weekly meal to the hungry and homeless of Colorado Springs. The students recognized a need for a hot meal on Sunday afternoons, when the Marian House was closed. The community greeted the new meal with enthusiasm, and what began as a small operation dependent upon donations from the college’s cafeteria excesses grew into a community-supported organization that this summer served an all-time high of 300 meals.
The kitchen runs on donations: Bon Appétit, the food-management company at Colorado College, Whole Foods, La Baguette and, in the summer, Miller Farms, are the primary food donors. Once a week, volunteers pick up donations from several locations around the city with which to create a meal on Sunday. Because donations fluctuate week to week, the kitchen does purchase some staples from Care and Share. Meat, rice, beans, butter, cleaning supplies, spices, and maintenance fees make for an annual operating cost of approximately $8,000. The Colorado College Student Government Association gives the kitchen an annual allotment (this year, $3,000), and last year the Empty Bowls benefit raised $3,500. Private donations help, but student managers and their staff supervisor are responsible for raising the balance every year.
Last year’s renovations to the Community Kitchen were a huge improvement, McCarey said, highlighting how apparently minor changes can make a major difference. Just ask him about the new potato slicer: “That is the coolest thing for me. What used to take us two hours, we can now do in 20 minutes.” And a mop: “That was an astronomical leap forward from using rags on the floor.” And don’t get him started on the new steel pots, which replaced some of the aluminum ones: “We can cook things three to four times as fast. Before, we could boil potatoes from 10 a.m. to 2, and they still wouldn’t be done. They were rock hard, and it was a struggle to mash them.”
Another major improvement was establishing a back storage room for the Community Kitchen to use.”This allows for a much higher level of organization,” McCarey said. “We can have long-term organization and be much more efficient.”
Since its beginning, the CC Community Kitchen has fostered a welcoming atmosphere for its guests. The kitchen managers, all students, have emphasized a unique element at the CC Community Kitchen: They insist those served are treated as guests, not clients. The kitchen strives to eliminate boundaries and stigmas that commonly alienate the homeless. Although the meal is served at 1:30 p.m., all guests are welcome for coffee and pastries beginning at 9 a.m. Many of the volunteers eat with the guests, and many of the guests volunteer with food preparation, serving, and clean-up.
The staff currently searching for a consistent source of meat donations. The kitchen always is in need of candles, matches, socks, shoes, boots, toiletry and sanitary items, clothing (especially warm coats), sleeping bags and other items to distribute to homeless guests. Also needed are donations of canned and dry goods, paper products, desserts and salad greens, plastic ware, and containers to fill with food and send home with guests. Also needed are other non-food donations that support operations such as aprons, cleaning cloths, and cutting boards. The kitchen could benefit from more storage space, an additional oven, and a new warming oven.