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Comfort Food: Campus Kitchen Continues to Serve Despite COVID-19 Pandemic


While the Saint Louis University community learns and works remotely, SLU’s Campus Kitchen (CKSLU) is still open and operating, serving some of the University’s most vulnerable neighbors – men, women and children who do not have regular access to nutritious meals and who are even more food insecure during the public health crisis stemming from the 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Volunteers social distance while preparing meals at SLU's Campus Kitchen.

Volunteers observe social distancing protocols while preparing meals at SLU's Campus Kitchen. Photo by Melissa Apprill

The kitchen is also available for any student and/or SLU community member who is experiencing food insecurity, offering a variety of fresh, frozen and shelf-stable items to share.

“We have amazing students within our organization, and they take directly to heart that we are called to be men and women for others,” Melissa Apprill, Campus Kitchen coordinator, said. “At this point in time, perhaps more than any other in CKSLU's 19-year history, we grapple with our deeper Jesuit calling – to be men and women with others.”

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“This community health crisis highlights the knotty distinction between service and accompaniment, and we are trying to untangle it, keenly mindful of our shared responsibility to keep both the vulnerable among us and our volunteers safe, while also recognizing the immediate food needs of our community partners,” Apprill continued.

CKSLU began operating in 2001 and is a student-led volunteer organization dedicated to fighting for food justice in and around the University’s Midtown neighborhood.

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Serving Up Comfort Steadily and Safely

As the SLU and St. Louis communities have implemented social distancing and sheltering-in-place to help flatten the curve, the kitchen and its volunteers have continued delivering meals to five of partner sites and to opening CKSLU’s food resources to clients of the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry with the Homeless, another SLU-affiliated ministry.

CKSLU served about 1,820 meals in March, consistent with other months.

However, due to the disruptions caused by the current pandemic, the kitchen’s donations from partner groceries are down.

In order to continuing serving those in need, the kitchen has tweaked its routines, while still following stringent food and personal safety protocols. The kitchen and its volunteers have incorporated the latest University guidelines and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) into its meal preparation and cleaning processes, including vigorous handwashing and glove-wearing protocols, as well as added sanitization and cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

A limited number of volunteers work each shift while maintaining recommended social distancing, mask-wearing and other safety measures. Despite fewer volunteers due to the University’s current remote learning and work status, CKSLU’s remaining volunteers continue to feed their neighbors, with meals and by connecting personally.

“We are staying in regular contact with our other partners, trying to make sure that they do not feel abandoned or even more isolated,” Apprill said. “We’ve also been experimenting with providing groceries to some in lieu of a meal, and we have found that most just want to hear a friendly voice.” 

How to Help

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For questions or more information, contact the kitchen.

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of now more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.