When her daughter passed away nearly a decade ago, Rebecca Richardson became the primary caretaker for her three young grandchildren.
The additional mouths to feed strained her already-tight budget. Thankfully for her, Campus Kitchen at UGA (CKUGA) was able to help.
“They provide,” Richardson said. “They help out those in need so they can focus on other problems. People have many worries, and Campus Kitchen takes one of those off our minds.”
The program, established in 2012 by the Office of Service-Learning, serves more than 800 individuals. With the help of students across UGA in service-learning courses, CKUGA has doubled deliveries: clients receive a grocery bag of food and a family-size meal once a week, rather than every two weeks.
“The issue of hunger among seniors is not going away,” said Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “Seniors are a silent majority facing great needs. This is how UGA can address those needs and fill in the gaps.”
Out of the clients receiving weekly deliveries, 75 percent are grandparents raising grandchildren.
“Grandparents live on limited incomes and they don’t expect to raise kids at this stage of their life,” said Paige Powell, who directs the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program at the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA).
More than 2.5 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents, older siblings and extended family, many who aren’t their legal guardians and therefore can’t access social service programs for children in need.
The risk of food insecurity for grandparents supporting grandchildren is 50 percent higher compared to seniors in Athens not raising grandchildren, according to the ACCA.
Students involved in CKUGA collect food from UGA’s student-run UGArden, as well as from area businesses, and repurpose it into meals that they distribute to seniors in need.
“I like that Campus Kitchen works specifically with senior citizens,” said Trisha Dalapati, a UGA senior studying anthropology and biochemistry. “You always hear about kids with food insecurity, but seniors are an overlooked part of the food insecure population.”
CKUGA is also an example of experiential learning. As a program that started as a service-learning course, CKUGA is now involved in 12 service-learning courses in the 2017-2018 school year.
“It’s a great vehicle to connect faculty with service-learning,” said Wilder. “This is one of the few programs that reaches seniors as a population, and the demand for jobs relating to seniors is growing.”
A Terry College of Business systems analysis and design class created a cloud-based data bank to make tracking food donations and deliveries more efficient. The system served as a capstone project and provided real-world experience on how to develop a technology solution to solve a client’s problem.
“This was an opportunity to work with a real client who had specific needs,” said Elena Karahanna, the Terry College of Business L. Edmund Rast Professor of Business and UGA Distinguished Research Professor. “We wanted to be sure this was not just a class project, but something that was sustainable and could actually be used by Campus Kitchen and the community.”
A new class of students continues to work with CKUGA, now designing a system to keep track of food donations, types of food being donated, and how food is distributed.
While CKUGA is addressing the problem, there are still families in the Athens area that need food, said Brad Turner, who directs CKUGA in the Office of Service-Learning.
“There’s still a great need in terms of senior hunger,” Turner said. “The amount of resources out there is not proportionate to the need.”
About Campus Kitchen at UGA
Writer: Leah Moss, firstname.lastname@example.org, 706-612-0063
Photographer: Shannah Montgomery, email@example.com, 706-542-3638
Contact: Brad Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org