In the Dartmouth Sustainability Office, almost every one of our programs starts with a student bringing us an idea for solving a problem they are passionate about. This winter, Han Vale ‘20, Sophie Neuhaus ‘20, and Julie Lim ‘20, piloted a new ‘Kitchen Kits’ program, to address issues of food accessibility on campus. Through the program, students can check out kitchen utensils and cookware to prepare meals in dormitories and other living spaces on campus.
The idea started when Han, a trained chef, created her own internship in our office, Thirdspace, in which she used food to convey ideas about sustainability and create community. As part of her internship, Han began to t develop ways to remove some of the barriers associated with eating locally and cooking on campus as a student. “I started thinking about the ways in which access to cooking on campus is not possible if you don’t have the equipment, and how cumbersome it can be to have to buy that equipment, fiscally logistically, for so many. Then one day I was thinking about libraries and how you can rent books ... and I had this idea: Wouldn’t it be sweet if you could check out the cooking equipment you needed, as you need it?”
Han’s experience with cooking on campus through Thirdspace opened many conversations in the sustainability community about the importance of food and cooking in creating dialogue. Sophie Neuhaus ‘20 and Julie Lim ‘20 were two students involved in these conversations and saw the moment as an opportunity. Sophie applied for and received a Dartmouth Outing Club Environmental Studies Division Grant to fund two community kitchen kits. Kitchen kits include a range of cookware from baking sheets and mixing bowls to cheese graters and bread knives. Together, Sophie and Julie developed a system that allows students to check kits out to use in kitchens on campus.
Julie says she was excited about the project because she wanted to create ways for students to prepare culturally specific cuisine. “I was interested in helping create access to cultural foods that can’t be purchased in dining halls like foco [Class of ‘53 Commons]. I thought it was a great idea and a really cool project because food is so important to communities and building bonds. I love to cook, and I’ve learned about so many cultures through their cuisine. I think everyone should have that opportunity; it shouldn’t be limited because of where we are.”
Right now, there are two kits in circulation that have been reserved weekly since the program launched in December. Both Han and Julie are happy to know that the project has been popular with students, and that it’s working. Now that there is a system in place, the two hope to see the program expanded in future terms.
Students interested in checking out a kitchen kit can email firstname.lastname@example.org