By Colton Williams
The Community Action Committee (CAC), an outreach program led out of Otey Parish in Sewanee, has partnered with McClurg Dining Hall to pack and deliver unused portions of food to those in Sewanee and the surrounding area.
The program, named Kitchen to Table, utilizes different groups in Sewanee in order to execute its goals. With the help of the local Rotary Club, the CAC purchased a sealing machine in order to effectively pack and seal portions of food. The trays used are versatile and can be formed into different shapes and sizes to meet the need. These meals are frozen and can be reheated when ready to eat.
“Kitchen to Table for me is the perfect way to bring all of these groups together who have similar goals in mind,” said David Goodpaster (T’20), the director of the CAC.
McClurg Dining Hall provides ‘unused portions’ of food that weren’t used during the dinner period at McClurg, and cannot be used or refashioned into another dish.
“The goal is to feed people that otherwise wouldn’t get to eat,” said Chef Rick Wright. “Here in the United States we have a real issue with food insecurity and hunger, and every year that continues to get larger and bigger. We in the Dining Hall produce a lot of food, and due to the nature of production and type of program we have, we have unused portions at the end of the day.”
Wright added that nearly 40 percent of produced food in the United States is wasted. The CAC operates a food bank, but Kitchen to Table is undertaking a new, collaborative approach.
“This is a way of helping the CAC become more of what I would call a food hub,” Goodpaster said. “The trays kind of symbolize the program. This is just a very versatile approach. We’ll distribute them to different churches, and right now one of my destinations is the Bridge Program in Winchester, a program for at-risk youth.”
As opposed to other food banking models, the CAC’s program hopes to establish community, and work directly with different institutions and organizations to provide meals to those who need them. “What’s really exciting for me about this is the collaboration, the partners, that’s the biggest takeaway,” Goodpaster said.
“The emphasis is always on community,” he added.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased food insecurity, particularly on the Mountain and surrounding areas.
“Based on what I’m reading about food insecurity and hunger in the United States, the pandemic has really amplified that and made it worse, so it is really a timely program,” Wright said.
Wright added that during a typical year, McClurg’s summer meal program — which provides food to local children and families — serves about 9,000 meals. This summer they served 49,000.
“We’re just doing what naturally seems right,” Goodpaster said. “What’s going to happen with that food anyway? Are we just going to throw it away?”
Eventually, both Goodpaster and Wright envisioned the program expanding both in the number of people served, and the number of food providers.
“In the long run we would like to get more people involved who also produce food on the plateau,” Wright said. “Everybody has food waste, no matter how large or how small it is, so it would be great to have an aggregation system, that’s scheduled two or three times a week where we go and pick up unused portions and then get that to people that can actually use it.”
“I feel like this is really something that can take CAC to the next level,” Goodpaster said. “It’s taking what I already think is a great model, and it’s expanding on that, making it that much better.”