Cooking for the community

Staff Writer

Students put their chef hats on for a good cause.

The dining hall was empty. The cooks began to mop the floors and load the dishwashers. Only the back lights were on. It seemed like the kitchen was closing down for the night. However, things were just heating up for some of the people in the kitchen.
Eight Virginia Wesleyan students participated in Cooking for Kids Wednesday, Sept. 25 in an effort to help end child hunger.
Cooking for Kids is a food preparation program in partnership with the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia.
The program invites people to help assemble meals that they send to the Boys and Girls Clubs as well as other after-school programs in the Kids Café network.
“Putting in an hour of work can change the lives of thousands,” said Denisha Howard, a sophomore at Virginia Wesleyan, and the head director of the Cooking for Kids program here at school.
That night, the students produced 1,296 servings of turkey alfredo pasta. In a little over an hour, these students helped create meals for more than 1,000 children. “Most of the time, the meals they receive are the only [meals] they’ll be able to eat,” said Howard.
By participating in Cooking for Kids, students have the potential to change a child’s entire day and ensure that the child receives the nutrition they need to live. Child hunger is an ongoing issue in our communities and Cooking for Kids helps relieve this problem.
Students put on caps and aprons, washed their hands and formed assembly lines to begin making the meals. Once the preparation started, the students combined pre-cooked ground turkey, thawed broccoli, noodles and alfredo sauce in large tubs and mixed the ingredients together. After all of the food was mixed, the students packaged it in containers so it could be transported.
The students, however, were not the only ones to help with the preparation. The kitchen staff provided a lot of assistance as well. Chef Leon Taylor usually coordinates everything in the kitchen for the Cooking for Kids program and the kitchen staff precooks all of the food. The program was a joint effort by everyone in the kitchen to produce as much food as possible for the children.
Caroline Busse, an employee of the kitchen staff, has helped with the program for two years. “I do it because it’s fun,” said Busse.
All of the volunteers completed the preparations with smiles on their faces. Around half of the volunteers were newcomers and half were returners.
Cooking for Kids generally meets every other Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. in the kitchen between the burger station and the dessert station. Each meeting, the participants generate around 1,200 meals. Meals normally consist of some type of pasta, but workers also like to prepare barbecue chicken because it is a fan favorite.
Anyone can sign up to help out with the cause and everyone is encouraged to do so. Many people come back week after week and year after year because of pure enjoyment.
Students can sign up for Cooking for Kids in the Community Service Office located on campus near the post office.