LEXINGTON, Ky. — Students at the University of Kentucky are combining community outreach and problem-solving into full meals.
Kendra Oonorasak is the dietetics and human nutrition department’s director of community outreach. She has spent almost a decade nourishing a community in need, all while working and studying at the University of Kentucky. She’s one of the founding members of ‘Meals on Wings’.
“Much of why I came here as an international student from Burma, India, China and Thailand to the UK and to pursue a dietetics degree,” said Oonarasak. “And during that time, the campus kitchen is what got me out of my shell.”
It's a program that works in three key steps: planning, preparing, and placing revitalized warm and cold meals into the homes of older individuals in the city.
It's one program a part of the Campus Kitchen on campus. Oonarasak said over the last several years, the kitchen has been customized to help expand on other services inside the dietetics and human nutrition department.
Oonorasak said that projects like this one are all based on student development academically, professionally, and as individuals, which she found out herself from continued volunteering.
“And I got to be a part of something that had about four people who were leaders, also volunteers who were also prepping the meals and delivering the meals that were about like 20 meals a week," she said.
Creating a bigger difference over time, she says now, nearly 300 to 400 meals a week. They recover food before it can be wasted or disposed of, and more often from local hospitals like the UK's Chandler Hospital.
“We always get a hodgepodge of things and we don't know how much of anything that we're getting," she said. "So that's what students are being challenged with.”
That's where they add additional supplements like fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and more nutrition-forward items they have sourced.
Once meals are ready, they’re delivered to individuals who live in subsidized housing and other adults in need.
Volunteers are not only students studying dietetics and human nutrition but also other programs like engineering or like biology major and shift leader Dev Ramaiah.