June 11 – Summer is here – the perfect time to volunteer

We have been waiting for these long summer days during this past cold and wet winter. The slower pace of summer gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our community, meeting new folks and helping others along the way.

This time of the year is my favorite time to volunteer. As the college students are off on summer break, I find there more than enough hours to fill meeting and working alongside new friends while ensuring folks who need a meal enjoy a nutritious one at the main or Express location.

What stands out for me over the summer months, is CK’s Summer Food Service Program. This program operates while school is closed for the summer and serves children in Country View, Walnut Woods, Henderson Court, Crestmont, The Reserve at Chandler’s Glen, Southcrest Manor, Orchard Glen, Canterbury House, Cedar Chase and Trail View. Kids come together and enjoy a free, nutritious sack lunch. Having volunteered for this program, I am forever changed by the kindness of the children, the concern for the parents and the dedication of the staff.

Come and join us in the kitchen or on the road this summer, connecting with families, filling little tummies and making new friendships!

Alison May, Board member

May 27, 2019 – The Food Cycle

I have spent a greater portion of my life working in commercial food service.  Over the last few decades, I have experienced a food cycle that seemed to be stuck, wasting expertly prepared food that hasn’t yet had the chance to adventure out of the walk in cooler.  As a food service professional, that last experience you would like to have, is to be underprepared for service and at a loss for prepared items to serve to the loyal guests.  An ounce of precaution in the industry often leads to tons of pre-consumer food waste.  Commercial food service is not the only cog in the food cycle wheel; they have the ability to make large scale impacts in providing safe, nutritious, fully prepared meals to those that need it most.  A study performed by the USDA cited food waste at retail and consumer levels accounted for 31 percent of the food supply, equaling 133 billion pounds annually.

Fifteen years ago I moved to Bloomington and began spending my days in the kitchen of Bloomington Hospital.  I was excited to be introduced to a new shift in the food cycle.  Three times a week a refrigerated truck would pull into the dock behind the hospital kitchen; and an employee from Hoosier Hills Food Bank would collect fully prepared food, that would otherwise ultimately be sent to the landfill.  As I began spending some time at the Community Kitchen, I noticed the food cycle unfolding in front of me.  The white bins used to collect food from the hospital were also taken to many other commercial establishments around the city and filled with leftover food, of an often gourmet quality.  While on an afternoon volunteer shift at the Community Kitchen, in walked Will from Hoosier Hills Food Bank with a delivery of white bins filled with nutritious, quality foods.  The busy volunteers at the kitchen began repacking the items into take home containers that will be provided to visitors at dinner service and other clients of the Community Kitchen.

I was able to witness a powerful shift in the often wasteful food cycle. I wanted to know more about this partnership that was rescuing food, providing it to the food insecure and keeping it out of the land of waste.  I contacted Tim Clougher, Assistant Director of the Community Kitchen, for a candid take on the partnership between Hoosier Hills Food Bank’s Mealshare program and the direct impacts the Community Kitchen has experienced.  Here are some of his perspectives on the partnership;

“The Hoosier Hills Food Bank’s Mealshare program is a great resource of healthy prepared foods from restaurants and food vendors all around Bloomington.  Community Kitchen has partnered with Hoosier Hills to rescue food and divert it to people that need it since the program began.  In 2018, Community Kitchen received over 24,000 lbs of food through the program and utilized the food in cold, reheatable carry out meals that we distribute during our dinner service at both our Rogers Street and West 11th Street locations.  The rescued food, along with the leftover food we have prepared also goes into reheatable carry out meals that are delivered to both Area 10 clients and Nutrition Links, and often to meals for residents of Friend’s Place.”

“In 2018, rescued Mealshare food was the predominant resource that helped the Community Kitchen provide:

  • 17,215 meals consisting of an entree and a side dish to Friend’s Place
  • 3,709 meals to Area 10 homebound seniors
  • 3,017 meals to HIV+ clients through Nutrition Links, a partnership with IU Health Bloomington Hospital
  • 25 – 30,000 Reheatable carry out meals distributed at Community Kitchen’s Rogers Street and Express locations.”

“The Community Kitchen pays a small shared maintenance fee of approximately $0.16 per pound of food to Hoosier Hills.  The food bank picks up the food in refrigerated trucks from top notch restaurants like One World Catering, The Tudor Room, Traditions Catering, the Hoosier Room and IU Health Bloomington. The professional staff at these facilities, combined with the efforts from Hoosier Hills and staff of the Community Kitchen ensure all food is handled with food safety in mind.  All food donations are handled following guidelines outlined in the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program.”

Andrea Armstrong, Board member

May 8, 2019 – Acts of Kindness

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we all have lives that can be stressful in different ways. When someone is stalled at a stoplight and we are in a hurry, we get road rage. When a cashier can’t put a smile on, we wonder what her problem is. The truth is that we never know what other people have to handle. Maybe that person at the stoplight is on her phone to make sure that her grandma can get the care that she needs and she can also get to work. Maybe the cashier is trying to work multiple jobs and raise troubled teens. These are just a couple of examples of things we may not think of when we pass judgment on other people. I have come to find that it is the little things that we can do every day that are helpful. Wave at your neighbors. Say hello to your co-workers. Even if they are strangers, these small things make a difference in people’s lives. That is what we hope to do every day at Community Kitchen. We do small things that help build a community, feed people, and make them feel safe. We help them feel there is still hope. Being a part of this organization has done that for me in many ways even. While I don’t need the Kitchen to feed me, they feed me in a lot of other ways.  The support of our community helps us do that for others, as well as, reinforces our passion. So whether you are a volunteer, you read our blog posts, share our Facebook posts, or come to our brunch fundraising events, we thank you!

Chantel Adcock, Board Member

November 15, 2018 – Why I volunteer for Community Kitchen

I have worked in restaurants for my entire career. It makes me happy to feed people, and feed people well. I am a Bloomington native and I have a passion for our community. I was very fortunate to get my first position in a full service restaurant at a locally owned Mexican restaurant. The owner was extremely involved in volunteering and the local community. Volunteering was part of the culture that she created in the restaurant. She encouraged her entire staff to volunteer at the Community Kitchen of Monroe County. She also sat on the board for CASA at that time. My 18-year-old self didn’t understand the impact that these efforts had on our community.  My experience built a foundation for social service.

When I took business classes at Ivy Tech, my professor required his class to volunteer to better understand the community. Since I had previous experience at Community Kitchen I chose to do my project and volunteer time there.

My next position was at a corporate restaurant. At the time, the corporation and the general manager were very interested in giving back on a local and national level on many different platforms. This gave me the opportunity to take on responsibility as a community outreach person. Community Kitchen was the first place for me to reach out to with this new responsibility. I was able to coordinate two employees from my restaurant to come volunteer at the Kitchen during service once a week.

My career then brought me back downtown to a local restaurant. The ownership there also participated in community outreach in many ways. This continued to peak my interest to be involved. The ownership was extremely involved in Chefs’ Challenge.

Chefs’ Challenge is the largest fundraiser Community Kitchen does every year. My restaurant encouraged the staff to attend as well as encouraged them to be active in the voting process. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!! The staff bonded over Chefs’ Challenge and the adventures that it brings year in and year out.

When I finally had the opportunity to work with Chef Seth Elgar, my Community Kitchen experience came full circle. Seth works very closely on our quarterly fundraising brunches. Volunteering at those allowed me to understand more about the different fundraisers at Community Kitchen.

Knowing that I wanted to give back to my community in some way, I decided Community Kitchen seemed like a natural place to begin. The staff and board work together whole-heartedly for the greater good of the organization. Everyone who comes to volunteer with us is extremely passionate about our mission. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Community Kitchen of Monroe County organization, and I am excited to grow as a board member.

Chantel Adcock, Board Member

August 14, 2018 – 5,400 square feet: A new era at Community Kitchen  

Seven years ago, the Community Kitchen moved its main operations to its current location at 1515 S. Rogers Street. This marked a huge step in the Kitchen’s history and its ability to fight hunger in our community.

Knowing that the Kitchen’s operations were busting at the seams at the old location, the board believed more space would resolve issues like standing room only for patrons at busy times, prepping food for new outreach programs to children and seniors, and maintaining a warehouse of food on-site for greater efficiency. What the board didn’t know was how much space would be ideal, and how many people would want to support the effort to create this new space.

The board requested a space feasibility study to review the Kitchen’s space at the time and make recommendations for what kind of space would be required to meet future need. Despite knowing things were a cramped at the 1,300 square-foot location, the board was surprised to hear the result of the feasibility study. The study recommended 5,400 square feet of space to conduct current operations and continue manageable, reasonable growth in the future.

5,400 square feet?!

The board and the Kitchen’s staff began to explore local spaces and make plans for a capital campaign to support the move. Would it be new construction on a vacant lot? Would it be a shared location with other services? Everyone agreed that it needed to be close to the old location, which was easily accessible to patrons from a variety of areas in town.

A few months later, operations manager at the time, Julius Lee, noticed the old Zucchini Prints shop go up for sale on the edge of the McDoel Gardens and Broadview Neighborhoods. He mentioned it to executive director Vicki Pierce as something to check out. They toured the space and asked, “How many square feet?” The agent sifted through the paperwork.

“It’s 5,400 square feet,” he replied.

I have served on the board for nearly 10 years. Vicki will tell you and I will confirm that, when the Kitchen is concerned, opportunities have a way of happening at just the time they are most needed. So, when we happened to locate a 5,400 square-foot building in the exact neighborhood we identified, we took notice, examined the options, and made the decision to purchase the property.

Over the next year, generous organizations and donors contributed more than $750,000 to renovate the newly purchased space. Scores of meetings, many hot days of construction, and hundreds of decisions later, the new home of the Community Kitchen opened to serve its first meal at 1515 S. Rogers Street, a location that decades ago warehoused bread loaves that were served on dinner tables across Monroe County.

With the new space, the Kitchen serves patrons with greater dignity (a seat for everyone!) and offers a family dining space for caregivers and children to connect over their meals. Programs like Backpack Buddies have more than doubled with increased capacity, and the Head Start meals program for preschoolers could have only been possible with the larger kitchen and storage areas. The Kitchen distributes nearly 35 percent more meals and snacks than it did in 2011—more than 300,000 meals and snacks in total. The space is more functional and better suited for unexpected emergency events with a newly installed generator, thanks to a grant from the City of Bloomington Community Development Block Grant program.

Thanks to all who have supported the effort to “build the Kitchen” and create a welcoming, efficient, and better prepared space for Community Kitchen’s services.

Kyla Cox Deckard, Board Member

July 20, 2018 – Chefs’ Challenge, the most underrated night out in Bloomington

My name is Seth Elgar. I’m a Bloomington native, Chef of a few restaurants for you all for the past decade, and a member of the board of directors for the Community Kitchen of Monroe County for the past 6 years. The Chefs’ Challenge event is how I became acquainted with Community Kitchen, and I wanted to share my perspective with you in hopes that you’ll be in attendance for this year’s competition.

For those who have been to the annual Chefs’ Challenge here in Bloomington, I am preaching to the choir…I’m hoping that this message reaches a multitude of those who have not, because I want to share the joy and impact that this event creates! Not just for the attendees, but the recipients of thousands of meals which get supplied each year due to the generosity of those in attendance, and the event sponsors who help to make it all possible. There is nothing like it in Bloomington, and it is always a great show!

Each year a list of local Chefs put their name in the “hat” to be voted upon to compete on the stage in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This year it is Corbin Morwick of One World Catering, Bob Adkins of Truffles, and Chris Hoppie of Farm competing for the Golden Spatula award. All three contestants are graciously taking time out of their very busy schedules to donate an evening to entertain all in attendance with their approach to the secret seasonal ingredient, which will be presented to them mere minutes before taking the stage. They will then have a few minutes to plan their approach, before the clock starts ticking, then preparing multiple courses of rapid-fire foods in a one-hour competition right before your eyes!

So, now that you know why you need to be in attendance, all you need to decide is how much do I want to experience this event? General admission for the show is $30, and a spread of complimentary appetizers and snacks from local area independent restaurants await you with a cash bar in the lobby. There are also the bistro seats on the stage, where participants get to try the foods prepared by the competitors while drinking beer and wine on the stage above the Chefs. Those seats are up for auction ( https://unitedcountrycoffey.hibid.com/catalog/137071/12th-annual-chefs-challenge—bistro-seat-auction/ ), ending at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 27th. Having been a competitor on the stage, a member of the crowd, the service manager of the bistro seats, and an auction winner, trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss out on trying each and every creation on that stage…By far the best seats in the house!

Great food, and an even better cause. That’s the theme for the evening and I hope that you can join us on Sunday, July 29th to experience it for yourselves. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll see you there!

Seth Elgar, Board Member

July 12, 2018 – ACH

It is not uncommon to hear the acronym “ACH” when discussing fundraising. We, at the Community Kitchen, use “ACH” often when asking for donations to our organization. However, for those who are not familiar with fundraising or nonprofits, “ACH” may just seem like fundraising jargon.

ACH stands for is Automated Clearing House. Simply put, it is a service that allows individuals to make electronic payments to a nonprofit organization. For example, instead of writing a monthly check to the Community Kitchen, I allow an ACH service to withdraw my donation each month and direct it to the Kitchen. It is an incredibly reliable and efficient way to ensure your donation is sent and received.

The benefit of receiving regular monthly donations is invaluable to the Community Kitchen. As a donor, or potential donor, I ask that you consider giving monthly to the Kitchen. By making recurring monthly donations you provide the Kitchen with a predictable and dependable stream of income. Like most food security nonprofits, Community Kitchen’s greatest source of income is traditionally seasonal, mainly around the time of winter holidays. However, monthly donations give the Kitchen the flexibility to plan programs knowing that there is reliable cash flow.

If you are a donor to the Community Kitchen, I deeply thank you for your support. You are a key player in the growth and care of our organization and the Bloomington community.

Hope Snodgrass, Board Member

I created this graphic to demonstrate how the Community Kitchen puts monthly donations to worthy uses.

July 3, 2018 – Freedom

As I contemplate freedom in the run up to our Independence day celebration I can’t help but think about how food plays a role in the freedom most of us enjoy.

My wife and I were discussing our plans for our cookout celebration and I need to swing by and pick up some brats and buns for it on my way home from work.  But what if I couldn’t do that?  What if my situation was insecure enough that I couldn’t just swing by and grab those?  Would I not celebrate?  Would I not meet with friends?

When I was a child, we didn’t have much.  Mom was doing her best, working sometimes 3 jobs to take care of us.  We used government cheese and butter and had food stamps to help out.  I got a job in a restaurant at 15 so that mom could direct those resources towards my younger siblings.  I could earn money and eat a meal on every shift.  Without those subsidies, I would have struggled to study, play sports and perhaps even stay out of trouble.  Food security gave those things to me.  It allowed me the freedom to excel and go to college and change my socioeconomic situation.

Imagine a place where every waking moment is dedicated to securing food just to make it to the next day.  Where the distraction of hunger can stunt your ability to become educated.  Where you can’t run free and play like the other kids.  Where you spend sleepless nights worrying that you can’t feed your hungry child.  That place is here in Monroe county for many people.

Community Kitchen is dedicated to helping people have the freedom to pursue other things rather than just securing enough food to make it to the next day. To study without the constant pain and distraction of hunger. To learn a skill rather than having to help out the family in that pursuit.  To worry less and sleep more.

Wouldn’t that be a place that we could proudly say is truly Free?

Dan Williamson, Board member

 

June 28, 2018 Finding Community

Three years ago, I made a decision to leave my Central PA roots and follow my son and his
family to Bloomington, IN where they had relocated from Philadelphia the year before. They are
both in the food and beverage industry so the first people I met in Bloomington were also in that
industry. My daughter in law was working with a chef who was a very active board member with
the local non profit organization Community Kitchen in Bloomington. We were both anxious to
meet new people and very interested in volunteering in the community. I have volunteered in
many organizations over the years Girl Scouts, Community groups, School groups, National
charity groups but had never been on a board of directors especially for a local non profit..
Chef Elgar, a board member of Community Kitchen, shared his passion for the organization’s
mission, vision, and values with us as well as the great volunteer opportunities including board
membership. He invited us to one of their quarterly brunch fundraisers where we participated
as volunteers serving the patrons, and meeting guests. We had so much fun, the food was
absolutely amazing and we met other volunteers and some board members….a really great
day! If you’ve attended our brunches, you understand! If not, you must come and you will be
amazed!!
So there I was volunteering at the brunch, a relative stranger to Indiana, Bloomington and
Community Kitchen but was warmly embraced by the group of board members and volunteers,
all the while meeting and serving brunch attendees and learning about how Community Kitchen
provides food and nutrition for children and adults in need in Bloomington!
We soon attended a few board meetings, did some volunteering in the kitchen, and were
invited to join the board of directors. I have made new friends, learned so much about
non-profits, board membership and committees, fundraising, events, Bloomington and helping
others in need! Three years later I am still in awe of the wonderful, committed, dedicated and
efficient staff, the diversity, experience, passion and comradery of the Board members and the
support of the Bloomington community for this wonderful organization.. Healthy food not only
nourishes and sustains our bodies and minds but also connects us socially as evidenced by the
buzz in the kitchen by the staff and volunteers prepping, the people in our our dining room each
evening and the excitement of the children running to the van in the summer as we deliver
healthy lunches.
As a board member I have met so many wonderful people in the community, had so much fun
at our fundraisers, and learned so much about my community as well as a non profit board. I
have served meals, cut veggies and fruit, de-boned hams, made boxed lunches, helped deliver
summer meals to kids, mopped the floors, wiped tables, vacuumed the floors and loved every
minute of it.
Thank you to all our staff, volunteers and the Bloomington community for supporting this
wonderful organization!

-Jeanette Barefoot

June 11, 2018 – The Power of Volunteers

The first time I volunteered for the Community Kitchen, it was because a friend of mine asked me if I would help with the Kitchen’s first Art Auction fundraiser.

I had never volunteered for a service agency before, probably for the selfish reason of hoarding my time.  But my friend is a good salesman and convinced me that serving food and cleaning up at the Auction would be a lot of fun.

The event was great.  It was held in the ballroom at Fountain Square.  Excellent food was donated by local restaurants.  If I recall, a couple of musical groups entertained while attendees milled about the room angling for the last chance to bid on donated pieces from local artists.  At the end of the night, the volunteers were allowed to take home the leftover wine!

That was 1999, and I’ve been involved with the Kitchen ever since, serving as a board member and volunteering my time for various fundraisers.

It is interesting to think that had my friend not invited me to volunteer for the auction, I might not be involved with the Kitchen at all.  I wonder how many other volunteers have similar stories that start off as “just this once” and turn into a heartfelt dedication.

Did someone sign up at the farmer’s market to volunteer because the person at the sign-up table made eye contact?  How many have seen a Facebook post, clicked the link and found themselves registering on our volunteer page?  Which attendee at one of our fundraising events was impressed by the dedicated volunteers?  Perhaps you know the retiree who was looking to stay active and make a difference?

Who came with their parents to serve a Thanksgiving meal years ago, and now brings their children to do the same?

Who volunteered on Martin Luther King Day, and then came back the next week?

Who ate a meal that the Kitchen provided and chose to volunteer as a sign of thanks?

In a normal month the Kitchen might receive around 1,400 volunteer hours from roughly 325 different volunteers.  Those are 325 amazing stories of people giving their time and energy for the Kitchen.  For each story of how they got there, there is a story of how they impact the community, the Kitchen and some of our most at-need residents.

For starters, volunteers in March saved the Kitchen about $14,000 in wages.  That’s equivalent to about half the monthly payroll.  Put another way, payroll would be almost $300,000 higher annually if the Kitchen had to hire staff where volunteers currently serve.  That amount of additional payroll would crush the Kitchen’s finances and greatly reduce our ability to effectively administer our current programs.

Many of our volunteers come back for multiple shifts through the year.  Many are weekly volunteers.  Some may wash dishes more often here than at home!  That familiarity with the Kitchen’s programs ensures the Kitchen’s success.  In the same way that long term employees like Vicki, Tim and Adam bring efficiency and productivity to the Kitchen, multi-shift volunteers make the Kitchen run smoother.

Our volunteers also come from a variety of professions and walks of life, and those life experiences are intertwined with our patrons, staff, community partners, and everyone else they interact with.  They bring new life and energy to the Kitchen, and take home a new and changed attitude.  They make the Kitchen a community. They make it stronger.

Our volunteers have lives outside the Kitchen, so when they spend time here, they are doing so out of a desire to serve.  They want to be here.  They will tend to talk about their experiences with others.  They tell our story to people that the board or staff members perhaps don’t interact with on a regular basis.  Our volunteers are the Kitchen’s ambassadors.

At a recent Board meeting I asked how many board members had volunteered for the Kitchen before becoming a board member.  Almost every hand went up.  We have had board members volunteer because a work colleague did, or a spouse did, or a parent or grand parent did, or because they were new to town and were looking for an opportunity to make a difference.

Everyone knows that some of the best stories are told around the kitchen table.  I invite you to come sit at the proverbial Kitchen table and tell your volunteer story.

Who knows, maybe your story will also begin “I prepped food and cleaned up at a fundraiser because a friend said “c’mon it will be fun!””

Jim Becker, Board Member

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