A new club has formed on campus in efforts to encourage students to volunteer with Galesburg’s Knox Prairie Community Kitchen. The Knox Prairie Community Kitchen (KPCK) provides free meals and a community setting for Galesburg residents.
The KPCK is located in Central Congregational Church and provides cooked meals twice a month to all who come. It was founded in 2011, following a winter break which was extended an extra two weeks by Galesburg public schools in an effort to save costs. Many low-income students relied on free school lunches for food, so a number of citizens provided them with sack lunches during the break. This group then carried their work into the founding of the kitchen.
One of the founders is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman. Over the years of its existence, he has seen it grow from something that was meant simply to alleviate hunger to having a much wider significance of bringing diverse members of the Galesburg community together. Community-building, according to Schwartzman, has been a goal of the kitchen since its founding.
Custodian Diana Mackin, another frequent volunteer at the kitchen, spoke of the importance it has had in building understanding between Knox students and Galesburg residents. She said Knox students getting involved with the kitchen could help bridge what she called the “town and gown divide.”
Junior Katie Mansfield said that two of her friends who were studying to become teachers ate at the kitchen once and ended up sitting next to a veteran who offered them a unique perspective on the education system, giving them ideas they had never been exposed to before.
“We represent the Knox voice … if we go there, we can prove that we are all one and [that] we see ourselves as one,” Mansfield said.
Senior Leslie Carman, who is the KnoxCorp associate for the KPCK, founded the KPCK Club this year as a way for Knox students to be able to volunteer at the kitchen in an organized way. Volunteers perform tasks such as dishwashing, serving and cleanup.
Like Mansfield, Carman said the kitchen offers opportunities for students to learn in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
“By learning more [about Galesburg], you’re also learning more about yourself and about your community,” Carman said.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Daniel Beers is on the kitchen’s board of directors. “What we do at the dinners is give people a good meal … and fellowship,” Beers said.
Schwartzman and Beers see an expanded future for the kitchen. They hope to hold events to teach Galesburg residents skills ranging from cooking to budgeting, furthering its work in building a supportive, diverse community.
“The community part of the name of the [Knox Prairie Community Kitchen] … we’re really serious about that,” Beers said.