Campus kitchen prepares for the holidays

Najiah Osborne

As the holiday season approaches, students look forward to spending time with friends and family. Thanksgiving, the holiday in which people gather, give thanks and eat, is one that international student sophomore Lentz Pierre finds to be most unifying. The unfortunate reality is that, like Pierre, not every student has the opportunity to go home for Thanksgiving. 

“People are with their families… and I wish I could live that,” Pierre said. 

Pierre doesn’t have a solid meal plan during Thanksgiving break. He said that he believes if students have meal plans on-campus they should be able to use the meal plan anytime. However, the Gerber Dining Center will be closed during Thanksgiving break. 

“I was thinking about ordering food every day and going grocery shopping, which is not economical,” Pierre said. 

Thankfully, Augustana has clubs on campus that are designed to support students and help meet their needs. 

The Campus Kitchen, a club dedicated to ensuring that all students at Augie are fed, is collaborating with faculty member Laurel Williams to host a Thanksgiving event on Nov. 24. They will provide cooked meals for students that are not able to go home for Thanksgiving break. This is the first year that Campus Kitchen will be hosting this event, which will be held in the Erickson Residence Center basement or lounge. 

Students are excited for this event, and Campus Kitchen hopes students of every background can attend. A message that they hope to spread is that those who stay on campus during breaks are not alone. 

“I don’t know what the plan is, but I will definitely be attending,” Pierre said. 

Junior Emmie Kulak, president of Campus Kitchen, said that she hopes all students know the Thanksgiving event is open to everyone. Kulak is assisted by her sister Abbie Kulak, former president of the Campus Kitchen club.

“My family has always done a lot of participation with food events that are related to the events we host with Campus Kitchen. Helping out in soup kitchens pretty much my whole life has been preparing me for this,” Kulak said. 

Kulak stays in close contact with faculty, board members and the Campus Cupboard to ensure that these campus events can happen. The Campus Cupboard allows students to receive free food and snacks whenever they need. 

On Nov. 2-4, Campus Kitchen hosted a bake sale and raised $180. These proceeds are funding the Thanksgiving event.

Kulak has learned a lot from her experiences working with Campus Kitchen. 

“You can’t do anything on your own,” Kulak said. “The power of community is huge, and we can accomplish a lot if we work together. Food is one of those things that brings people together.” 

While there currently aren’t any opportunities to volunteer for the Campus Kitchen, Kulak hopes to make that happen in the future to keep students engaged. 

Before becoming part of the Campus Kitchen, Kulak was blindsided by the issue of food insecurity on campus. 

“It opened my eyes to a lot of the things that need more attention. Without this club, these issues would be getting a lot worse,” Kulak said. 

Kulak has many goals for the club. She is devoted to assisting students with their need for food. 

“We were talking about having large freezers and refrigerators, sort of like the Campus Cupboard, but where maybe there’s pre-packaged meals that aren’t super unhealthy like the C-store, where you grab pizza rolls or something like that,” Kulak said. 

On Nov. 19, Campus Kitchen will be using the proceeds from the bake sale to purchase groceries for the Thanksgiving event.

There isn’t a set menu for the food that will be served for the event, however, the Campus Kitchen will be providing various diet-sensitive options for students who may not be able to eat certain foods. 

“It is about food security on-campus and focusing on helping students who need a little help with getting access to food and bringing people together with food,” Kulak said. 

The meals that will be provided will also be packaged and available for students to grab from the Erickson Residence Center basement refrigerator, the Westerlin Residence Center fridge, or from the apartment of Williams, who lives in the Erickson Residence Center. The packaged meals will be available after Thanksgiving and will be in the fridges on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the break. 

Williams loves to share her love for cooking with students. She hosted a Thanksgiving dinner last year, and about 60 students attended. Williams and the Campus Kitchen members will be aiming to feed the same amount of students, if not more this year for the Thanksgiving dinner. 

This will be the first year that Williams will be in collaboration with the Campus Kitchen club. She has hosted events in the past year for students who stay on campus during the breaks. 

“The event was very fun last year. I love to cook, I love to host, I love to cook Thanksgiving foods. The inspiration for the event really just came from an idea like this would be a really nice way to spend some time with students,” Williams said. 

Last year when the first Thanksgiving event took place, Williams partnered with the Office of Residential Life. Williams is planning to partner with them again this year to assist in supporting the upcoming events being hosted by Campus Kitchen. 

“ResLife helps me pay for the food. They get the message out to students to invite students. I’m also collaborating with the Office of International Students and Scholar Services to ensure that all students know that they’re invited and welcome as well,” Williams said. 

Students are welcome to bring food that is most traditional for them. 

“I think if we were able to make this a multicultural event, that would be fantastic. I plan to cook some Thanksgiving staples and family staples; macaroni and cheese, different kinds of desserts,” Williams said. 

Senior Caroline Sorenson, former volunteer coordinator of the Campus Kitchen, is now the vice president of the club and is responsible for planning meetings, assisting president Emmie Kulak and exploring various ideas that will aid food security on campus. Sorenson enjoys being a helping hand and supporting students that are affected by food insecurity. 

“There’s a lot of additional students that are from the states and international students that don’t have access to food all of the time,” Sorenson said. 

Sorenson has had nothing but positive experiences working with the Campus Kitchen. Like Kulak, being part of the Campus Kitchen club has opened her eyes to the issue of food insecurity on campus. 

“I’ve become aware that there is food insecurity with college students which I had no idea about, but now that I’m more aware, I have a better connection with the club,” Sorenson said. 

Sorenson enjoys being part of change.  

“I think what I enjoy most is being able to help out students that might not have the ability to feel secure with food needs on-campus. This issue is something that I feel like not a lot of people know about,” Sorenson said. 

Sorenson said that she believes the Campus Kitchen builds community. 

“I think by having a group like this it makes students feel less alone and like there are people that care about them,” Sorenson said.