With a little creativity and a lot of partner support, the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech continues to increase food access in the New River Valley during the COVID-19 crisis. The Campus Kitchen program is a partnership between VT Engage and Virginia Tech Dining Services that recovers unserved food from campus dining centers, then delivers the food to nonprofit agencies in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, and Floyd. Since its inception, Campus Kitchen volunteers have diverted over 185,000 pounds of food from campus dining centers to food partners!

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, community partner organizations experienced an increase in the number of individuals and families in need of food. The Campus Kitchen team pivoted to help meet the changing needs of the community. Normally a student-led program, once all student events were suspended, Virginia Tech employees volunteered to step in and run the program. In Dining Services, employees in Dietrick, Owens, Au Bon Pain, and Southgate took over diverting unserved food and repackaging it for delivery. Then, three VT Engage team members and an employee from the Dean of Students office stepped up to deliver food three days a week – a change from the program’s typical schedule of six deliveries per week. The weekly deliveries are brought to three partners: Radford Fairlawn Daily Bread on Mondays, Plenty! Farm and Food Bank on Wednesdays, and Giving Tree Food Pantry on Fridays.

The team continued to adjust operations as students continued to leave campus and only a few dining centers remained open. While this reduction in operations meant that less unserved food is being produced on campus, at the same time dining employees worked to clear out stored food that will no longer be used for student meals. Since March 18, the team has delivered over 7,000 pounds of food.

As the crisis progressed and Campus Kitchen’s regular partners’ needs changed, the team reached out to other organizations to see if they could use the excess food to ensure as little food as possible went to waste. As the team contacted other organizations, they were able to set up temporary arrangements deliver food to an additional five organizations during the crisis:  New River Valley Agency on Aging, The Shelter, The Future Economy Collective, Hazel Bea Catering, and Millstone Kitchen.

Committed to reducing food waste on campus by providing food to those in need in our community, these employees have worked tirelessly to ensure food from campus continues to flow to community partners. Thank you to Campus Kitchen’s incredible partners on campus and in the community for making this work happen.

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