BLACKSBURG, Va. - Virginia Tech has launched its Campus Kitchen program to help feed the hungry in the area, and nearly 200 students have volunteered so far, organization leaders say.
"Sometimes it's hard on campus to do service projects that you feel like you're making a big impact, and this is one that you can see it happening," said Kelly Hipskind, a junior at Virginia Tech who serves as the Campus Kitchen's outreach coordinator.
Hipskind is one of about 180 students who volunteer with the Campus Kitchen. She and others leading the organization said they never expected the program to start with such a following.
"I'm glad that...students are also taking a personal responsibility and learning about where they live and the community members that are around that are just so gracious to have them," said Joanne Amposta, who works at VT Engage, the university's community engagement office, and runs the Campus Kitchen.
According to Amposta, the program has served more than 30 meals since the launch on Sept. 30 through Radford Fairlawn Daily Bread, which also provides meals to the hungry.
"We have so many resources, and I think that we have...a commitment to extension into the community as a land-grant university," she said.
Volunteers have a kitchen they use to prepare meals for those in need. But organization leaders said it wasn't easy to find a space to use, explaining that it took three years just to get the Campus Kitchen program up and running at Virginia Tech.
"I took a couple months and just spent time in the community, at different food banks, at different organizations that are focused on relieving hunger, and I found that their most pressing need is food," said Karlee Siepierski, a grad student at Virginia Tech who helped get the program started on campus.
"What do community members need in the New River Valley? They need meals," she added.
Siepierski said it means a lot to her that her vision to help feed the hungry has now become a reality.
"It's actually really emotional," she said. "Being there at the launch, it just came full circle, and I couldn't be happier."
Siepierski and Amposta said they hope to continue expanding the program to feed other communities in the area, as well as work to combat hunger on campus at Virginia Tech. Students who are interested in volunteering can find more information on the VT Engage website here.
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