Finding Purpose Fighting Food Insecurity

On a chilly, Thursday morning in Athens, Georgia, the aroma of sage and gravy floats through the corridors of a local church kitchen where a group of students with UGA’s Campus Kitchen are preparing a meal.

Today, they are steaming broccoli, roasting plant-based turkey, and making pasta with red sauce. In all, 40 meals will be packaged and delivered to the Advantage Homeless Day Service Center.

Campus Kitchen works to address food insecurity in Athens.  The organization serves mainly older adults and their families, in collaboration with community partners that serve individuals in need.

Brynna Allen, a fourth-year health promotion major, is the current food operations intern.

“I make sure that they have everything that they need to have to make a good meal to go out to the clients,” said Allen.

Campus Kitchen has a long tradition of hosting public health interns who want to eliminate barriers to healthy food.

Allen began volunteering at Campus Kitchen as part of a service-learning class. She says her experience as a volunteer helped to reinforce what she was learning in the classroom.

“I took community health last semester, and I would come to work that night and see it with my eyes. It really helped me apply the concepts and really understand on a deeper level what I’m learning and how valuable that knowledge is,” said Allen.

Better Prepared to Help Others

Sydney Mance, a second-year health promotion major with an emphasis on behavioral medicine, also works with Campus Kitchen as an undergraduate intern.

Each undergraduate student in the College of Public Health participates in an internship, and later in their senior year, students also complete a practicum to gain experience in their field.

Mance, an aspiring physician, says she has gained insight into what it’s like to work with and serve a community.

Mance said, “I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned from it is that especially when you’re serving a vulnerable population like Athens, the most important thing to do is really investigate where needs are.”

For Allen, this experience has shifted her career path, from wanting to be a physician’s assistant to doing the type of community engagement work she does with Campus Kitchen.

“I really didn’t think this is what I wanted to do, but then I started doing it, and started seeing the people in my community who have need and need tools to help them,” said Allen.

Allen plans to pursue a Master of Public Health and focus her career on working in the community.

“This kind of work is where I see myself in the future, like on the ground, in the community talking to people, helping people,” she said.

Mance plans to pursue medical school after graduating from UGA, and she’s grateful for the public health background she’s gained in her health promotion training.

“I really think that all physicians should have this public health background, because I think it will provide a more well-rounded perspective when going into patient interactions,” she said.

Campus Kitchen at UGA is a program of the Office of Service-Learning, a unit of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach.

– Chancey Phillips

Posted on March 21, 2022.