Beth Taormina, Campus Kitchens

As a student originally from the laid-back Pacific Northwest, it was a jarring experience to move out to D.C. to study Public Health and adapt to the East Coast lifestyle. I felt out of place and disoriented by my new fast paced lifestyle, but most of all I was no longer engaged in a community I was close to. This lack of community connection in my new home is what drew me to the Community Service Learning Project (CSLP) at American University. The CSLP credit has provided me the opportunity to find and connect with amazing organizations in the DMV area.

I selected Campus Kitchen in Glover Park to be my main volunteer site throughout the semester. Campus Kitchen is a student-powered hunger relief organization with the mission of “using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs of communities and to empower students through leadership and service learning opportunities” (Campus Kitchen, 2018). The location I specifically volunteered at focused on providing nutritional meals to the homeless and immunocompromised population in DC. I worked closely with Chef Anthony, the head chef at the Glover Park site, to prepare meals every Wednesday and Saturday. The meal preparation activities varied from day to day. Somedays I would sort through and repackage recently donated food, which would later be dispersed among other Campus Kitchen locations in the area. Other days I would be hard at work in the kitchen learning how to peel and dice fruits and vegetables.

I did not enter this service project with many expectations. I’ve learned from various experiences it is better for me to approach a situation with an open mind and minimal preconceived notions rather than expectations. On that note, I had an absolutely amazing time at Campus Kitchen and plan to continue volunteering there after this semester. Chef Anthony is what made this experience truly special! He is such a kind, welcoming person and is deeply passionate about the work he does. It was a little surprising that I never had a chance to interact with the population we were serving. I was only able to sign up for the Kitchen Shift volunteer hours due to conflicting work and class schedules. I chose to connect the CSLP to my Health Research Methods course. This volunteer experience applies to the course because the precursor to and good research is a deeper understanding of the community and their needs. It is important to spend time with target population and make sure their voices are heard. It plays a critical role in the research process.

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