Helping to fight hunger, Konza Student Table feeds those in need

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The weather was “terrible” but the cause was “worthy” on Wednesday, as student volunteers of the inaugural Konza Student Table event, served food to the community in high spirits as they set out to provide 300 free meals for students in a contact-less drive-through located at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center.

St. Isidore’s holds “Dollar Dinner” events on Sundays, which typically attract 200 students and by word of mouth  this Konza Student Table event was hailed as a “great success”.

This event will continue on every Wednesday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and staff have the intention of boosting numbers of meals handed out to greater levels as the program proceeds onward.

Student Volunteer for Konza Student Table 
Photo by Bill Bernard

The food provided for this event was crafted at Lacy’s Fresh Fare and Catering, located on the Kansas State campus, by students engaged in the “Commercial Food Production Management” course.

Ericka Bauer, Manager and Instructor at Lacy’s, said production of these orders begins on Mondays. Food is then prepared on Tuesdays and finally boxed on Wednesdays, with the entire process taking eight hours for student staff.

“Personally to me, this is giving back to the community and my students, who prepare the meals, will continue throughout the semester. It gives them the opportunity to learn about the non-profit side of the hospitality industry, which we don’t discuss in our classwork,” Bauer said. “So they actually get the hands-on experience to give back. I enjoy it because the students are actually helping other students, so if my students are in need they can come here and pick up a meal that they know is fresh and good.”

Hearing about the event on Facebook and The Collegian, K-State student Jasmine Morey had stated she had never been to an event like this, as she previously lived in the dorms, where she regularly had food provided for her. Now dealing with financially supporting herself,  budgeting for food can cause its own issues.

“[This event] means a warm meal, it means a little less stress for me to try to find some place to eat or make food or find the money to get food,” Morey said. “This is a safe place for someone to come get food and I’m really glad they started it. I think that this is helpful in general, but because of COVID it helps even more.”

Drive-through pickup at St. Isidore’s for Konza Student Table event
Photo by Bill Bernard

Konza Student Table originally was an answer to Vickie James, from the Food and Farm Council of Riley County, alongside the City of Manhattan recognizing food insecurity is major problem on the K-State campus. Identifying that someone needed to do something about this issue, both reached out to St. Isidore’s because of their proximity to campus.

Chaplain of St. Isidore’s, Father Gale Hammerschmidt communicated that we’re better as community than as a group of individuals.

“Sometimes we feel we have to do it all on our own. Communities help each other and communities allow others within the community to help them. So in Manhattan at K-State, we truly want to be a family, which is what we say,” Hammerschmidt said. “We have to sometimes receive help from our family. Sure it’s a weird deal that we all have within our hearts to say, ‘No, I can do it.’ But sometimes I think God set it up in a way where we have to think ‘Instead of me doing it, how about we do it together?'”

For this reason, Abby Rouse, Director of Stewardship for St. Isidore’s and Organizer for Konza Student Table Involvement, took the lead as she remembers a time she would go downtown, see hungry people standing on the corner begging for food and made it a goal to always have food in her car to be able to give them.

“I just am so convicted because if you’re hungry and I even get this way when I’m just a little bit hungry, it’s hard for me to focus on anything else. It’s hard to get good grades, it’s hard to live a full life and I realized that probably when I was in high school,” Rouse said. “I know that Jesus would give them whatever he had to eat. So my heart was always moved whenever I see people standing on the corner at the exit of the highway or wherever, so it’s a goal of mine to give them something to eat.”

Abby Rouse, Director of Stewardship and Organizer of the Konza Student Table event
Photo by Bill Bernard

“Going forward, hopefully this can be a way that people can meet each other and we can enjoy a meal together rather than just giving people food and sending them on their way. Obviously that’s the safest thing right now,” Rouse said.

Jacob Bednar, Co-president of St. Isidore’s Leadership Team explained the only issue for this event was taking precautions to make sure of keeping distance from people, wearing your personal protective equipment, and sanitizing.

“Also you have people that can’t really leave their homes. So that definitely limits the amount of people we can help,” Bednar said. “I think just getting the word out will really help and through people helping out their friends by coming here and getting food for those that maybe can’t leave their house.”

Currently Konza Student Table is not able to provide three meals a day, seven days a week but feel this event is a good starting point. With this in mind, Bauer expressed that the future looks very bright considering her students want to be involved in a process like this and ultimately want to give back to their fellow students.

“As long as we continue to receive financial support for this operation, we’ll continue as much as we can. Every Wednesday seems to be a good starting point, and hopefully at some point we would like to introduce it as two nights a week instead of one,” Bauer said.

Those looking to volunteer and donate their time or offer financial contributions, can find more information located at stisidores.com

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