Students serve up Soul Food

Campus groups to deliver leftover cafeteria food to local shelters

A Kingston Youth Shelter volunteer accepts food from Sheri Krell, co-chair of Soul Food, on Monday night.
A Kingston Youth Shelter volunteer accepts food from Sheri Krell, co-chair of Soul Food, on Monday night.

A group of Queen’s students is putting a little soul into their leftovers.

Soul Food, a group hoping to raise awareness about poverty in Kingston, will bring leftover food from Leonard Cafeteria to homeless shelters in the Kingston community every night when the dining hall closes at 8 p.m.

Last night, students from Queen’s Hillel did a trial run. The project officially begins tonight.

Sheri Krell, ArtSci ’08, and Tyler Peikes, ArtSci ’08, social action chairs for Queen’s Hillel, began working on the project last year when Krell was the group’s president.

“We really wanted to enhance Queen’s University, and we weren’t sure exactly what outlet we wanted to do it in,” Krell said.

Soul Food is spearheaded by a committee of 10 people. Krell and Peikes are co-chairs.

Krell said they spent a few months researching, talking to food banks and shelters and deciding whether the services they wanted to offer would be useful.

She said that’s how they found out about the Kingston Street Truck, which is run by volunteers and stationed at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at the intersection of Princess and Clergy streets downtown.

The truck is open from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. from mid-October until mid-March and offers people a chance to warm up and find a social outlet.

The truck holds anywhere between seven and 12 people per night, Krell said. Until now, she added, it has had very few resources.

“They had the bare minimum—a few crackers and some hot water.”

Krell said she contacted Marija Linjacki,, the University’s community outreach co-ordinator, who put her in touch with Queen’s Food Services.

Food Services Resident District Manager Phil Sparks said he has been trying to think of a way to get leftover food to groups in the community for a couple of years now, and the Soul Food initiative fit perfectly.

Within a week of meeting with Krell last spring, they had a successful trial run, Sparks said.

The group brought leftover food from the cafeteria to the Street Truck and the food was given to people who visited that night.

Sparks said the advantage of working with the truck is that they don’t count on receiving a certain amount of food from the University every night.

“Unlike an organization like Meals on Wheels that requires a facility to sign up for X number of meals every day, the Street Truck could take whatever it was that we left over,” he said.

Sparks said until now any food that couldn’t be reused in the dining halls was going to landfills.

“Although we try to control the leftovers as closely as possible, when you feed Leonard Hall, when you feed 1,800 people dinner, there’s going to be a few portions of something left over.”

The goal is to run this program at no extra cost to students, Sparks said.

Food that can be reused in the dining hall the next day, such as muffins, which stay fresh for more than one day, won’t be donated. Food such as pizza, soup and stew will be given away.

“It’s very important for me to retain this zero cost impact to prove that these type of initiatives can be done without a cost, the only cost being donated time,” Sparks said.

Besides Queen’s Hillel, nine student groups have volunteered to help with the Soul Food project, including Queen’s University Muslim Students Association, Queen’s Alive, Queen’s Asian Focus, the United Way Volunteer Crew, the AMS Volunteer Crew, Students Against Indifference, Students Helping Others Understand Tolerance, ASUS ’08 and students from a gender and poverty class in the women’s studies department.

A different club will deliver the food each night.

Sparks said some of his staff volunteered to deliver whenever student groups aren’t available to donate time.

He said Soul Food’s initiative is a great way for Queen’s to show its support to the community.

“I’m glad that a student group has been able to come forward and help bridge those gaps and then take it so much further.”

Along with the Street Mission Truck, Soul Food will be working with Dawn House, In From the Cold, the Kingston Youth Shelter, Ryandale Shelter and the Salvation Army.

“Whenever we have food, we have an open relationship that we’re going to call them and just drop it off,” Krell said.

She said the cost for the project is minimal, but they do need people to volunteer as drivers. If no one volunteers to drive one night, the group will make the deliveries in a taxi.

Soul Food will be fundraising, applying for grants and asking associated clubs for funds to cover the cost of taxis and supplies. There will also be a donation box set up in the cafeterias.

“There is food available in Kingston—the Food Bank’s doing a great job—but sometimes it’s nice to have something different,” she said. “For us it’s just caf food, but for them it’s like the world.”

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