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St. Lawrence Senior Helps Fight North Country Hunger

Like many seniors graduating from St. Lawrence University on May 18, Anne Wheeler ’14 has taken full advantage of her four years at college, earning good marks, getting involved in a variety of campus activities and even adding a semester-long study abroad to France to her list of academic achievements. The Longmeadow, Mass., senior has also left her mark on New York’s North Country.

Back in 2010, just two weeks into her first year at the University, Annie began volunteering at St. Lawrence’s chapter of The Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization that uses unused food from 36 colleges and high schools across the nation to help fight hunger in local communities.

“I haven’t stopped going since,” said Annie, who will also be St. Lawrence’s first graduate in its new business in the liberal arts major. “It started out as a great way for me to meet new people, but it has become more like a family to me.”

Run completely by St. Lawrence University students, The Campus Kitchens Project supplies meals to roughly 70 community residents each week. Students volunteer their time as cooks, servers and even dishwashers, serving meals every Monday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton. To date, nearly 3,000 free meals have been served to more than 1,500 people, many of whom are senior citizens and children.

Food donations come mostly from the dining halls at St. Lawrence as well as from SUNY Canton. CSAs (community-supported agriculture) and local farmers markets also supply some of the food that is served up to local residents.

Recently, the Campus Kitchens Project at St. Lawrence University received a $1,000 grant from Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation to help with the purchase of cooking and baking supplies that often do not get donated such as milk, oil, flour and spices. The organization received the award in the form of two $500 gift certificates to the Canton grocery.

The St. Lawrence chapter was also recently selected as one of 10 Campus Kitchens in the nation to focus on senior hunger as part of a three-year, $650,000 grant from the AARP Foundation. As part of that grant, Campus Kitchens will work with student volunteers to evaluate the most effective senior-focused programs for the region.

“We normally serve 60 to 80 people a week, but that number drops quite a bit during the winter,” Annie said. “Transportation is a huge issue for us. If you look at most of the other kitchens, they’re located in bigger metropolitan areas that are more condensed and have better access to public transportation. But that’s not the case here in the North Country. Seniors really don’t have any good way of getting around, especially in winter when they might be more worried about driving.”

Annie will move back to Massachusetts after graduation and will work for her parents’ landscaping business for some time. Her goal, though, is to find a job at a nonprofit organization, perhaps in the Boston area, helping individuals in need.

“Hunger is my passion,” she said, “and I want to help those who need help most.”

For more information on The Campus Kitchens Project, visit www.campuskitchens.org.