Konza Student Table serves nearly 20,000 meals since first year of inception

The Konza Student Table, sponsored by St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center and The Food and Farm Council of Riley County and Manhattan, provides a free meal to students every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Almost a year since its inception at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center on Sept. 9, 2020, the Konza Student Table has now served meals to nearly 20,000 Kansas State students to fight food insecurity.

Vickie James, coordinator for the Riley County and City of Manhattan Food and Farm Council, said the progress and impact made by the group over the past year has been astonishing.

“[Recipients] aren’t able to purchase the healthiest foods and most of them are university students across the country, not just Kansas State,” James said.

K-State students serve and prepare the meals for other students. Most of the ingredients in the meals are served warm but can be heated up again if necessary. The team also offers many ways for students to get involved on campus and volunteer in their community.

Ericka Bauer, a hospitality management instructor at K-State, is the manager of Lacy’s Fresh Fare and Catering in Justin Hall. She works with her students to prepare meals during her classes.

“We were already one semester through [COVID-19], and I had a catering class and didn’t know what they were going to do all semester,” Bauer said. “What are my food service students going to do? How are they going to be productive in a lab and get an education that is practical and skill-based when there aren’t really any people on campus to serve?”

Bauer has seen many of her students come through the line to pick up a meal.

“They know that they are going to get a nutritious meal and they know how it was prepared,” Bauer said. “If they need to go to the store, they know what ingredients they need to buy to make that inexpensive meal at home. We try to aim for about four to five ounces of starches, five to six ounces of protein and five to six ounces of vegetables within that meal.”

Bauer also teaches her students to consider the financial facets that come into play regarding food insecurity.

“The budget is about five dollars to put out for that boxed dinner,” Bauer said. “My students are learning about the financial aspects of doing a non-profit and learning how to still keep that nutritional content that we aim for each week.”

Jennifer Rettele-Thomas, co-founder of Voice First World and member of the Konza Student Table leadership team, said the group has already impacted her despite starting just under a year ago.

“Without what we’re doing in our community, we don’t know what would happen to those individuals. We don’t know where their next meal would come from,” Rettele-Thomas said. “It’s not our role to judge. We are a trusting environment, we are reliable, and if anything, we leave there each night knowing at least they got a meal and a breakfast for the week and that may be all that they get.”

James said she has grown fond of the organization and all it does to help others, even becoming the highlight of her week.

“If it’s a Wednesday night that I don’t help, I miss it,” James said.

K-State students and families can receive a free, warm meal at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday at St. Isidore’s, including a breakfast meal to-go. Any donations are accepted, and volunteer positions are available throughout the Manhattan community.

Volunteer sign-up is available through SignUpGenius, with donations handled by Abby Rouse, director of stewardship at St. Isidore’s. Online donations are welcome through the Konza Student Table tab on St. Isodore’s website. Every $100 donated provides 20 students with a warm meal and a brown bag breakfast.