University of Houston students taking action, feeding a community

- Houston’s Third Ward community is a virtual food desert, with few grocery stores and an abundance of fast food restaurants, residents have few options for fresh produce or healthy dining options. Now some members of the community are receiving healthy meals delivered to their door courtesy of University of Houston students.

This fall, a group of UH students launched a program aimed at preserving unused food from University dining facilities and serving it to Houstonians. This initiative combines the efforts of students from UH’s Bonner Leaders Program (based in the Honors College), the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Aramark and the national Campus Kitchens Project.

The result of this synergy is UH’s very own Campus Kitchen, the first of its kind at a public higher education institution in Texas.

Students recover left over, unserved food from UH dining halls (managed by Aramark) and transport it to freezers at the Hilton College. On delivery days, students package meals in covered trays (using Hilton’s kitchens and prep facilities) and transport it to New Hope Housing

Food is recovered five days a week from Fresh Foods and Cougar Woods dining halls. Students weigh and wrap the food and use insulated bags to keep it at a safe temperature. Meals are delivered three times a week to the New Hope facility at 4415 Perry Street (near UH). 

So far, students have recovered more than 3000 pounds of unused food (that otherwise would go to waste).

Meals have been distributed to New Hope residents by the housing center’s staff, but soon, students will have the opportunity to deliver these meals themselves.

The team, led by sophomore Brinda Penmetsa, credits UH for effectively preparing them for this endeavor.

“It’s great to say that UH has the first Campus Kitchen at a Texas public university. That’s amazing, and it makes us proud,” said Penmetsa, a pre-business major . “We’ve learned a lot at UH. From grant writing to leadership development, we are picking up new skills every day on campus.”

 A motivating factor for the Campus Kitchen is the fact that UH’s neighboring Third Ward community is a virtual food desert. With few grocery stores and an abundance of fast food restaurants, residents have few options for fresh produce or healthy dining options.

Follow their activities on the Campus Kitchen Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/campuskitchenuh

UH Press Release: Mike Emery

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