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, has expanded in both the amount of deliveries clients receive, and the overall number of clients. At its start, CKUGA served 281 individuals. Now, more than 800 people receive help from CKUGA. 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.”
Eunice Lee, part of the UGA VISTA network, and Grant Beecher and Wes York, Trader Joe’s employees, help prepare meals for CKUGA deliveries at the Talmage Terrace kitchen.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.
In the six years since its inception, CKUGA has recovered 272,142 pounds of food, and served 79,596 meals.
“The greatest solution to fight hunger isn’t a system, or meals, or groceries, but informed students who go on to be the next sustainable solution,” said Brad Turner, who coordinates CKUGA in the Office of Service-Learning.
CKUGA also partners with ACCA to collect food during Turkeypalooza, an annual food drive to serve older adults and homebound individuals during the Thanksgiving holiday season. In 2017, nearly 30 campus and community organizations donated nearly 2,588 cans, boxes and bags of food during the drive. Approximately 230 families received bags of groceries and 150 received prepared meals.
UGA’s partnerships with ACCA extends beyond feeding the hungry. Tiffany Washington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, created a service-learning course for students majoring in social work or public health and have an interest in gerontology.
The course enabled UGA students to work directly in clients’ homes with people suffering from dementia, said Eve Anthony, ACCA chief executive officer.
“We want to make sure that we are a good learning environment so that we’re creating a second generation of professionals who are interested in working with the aging population, or who at least understand issues related to the aging population,” Anthony said. “Service-learning is creating that.”
“Having this opportunity to learn and possibly explore and see if we want to work with this population, for me, it’s great,” said Marissa Jones, a student in the class. “Had I not taken this class I don’t know if I would have come into contact with them. I’m able to learn first-hand.”
Thanks to service-learning classes and programs, UGA students are able to improve the quality of life for seniors in Athens.
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