Gift helps UNK students make meals for those in need

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ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney prepare and deliver meals to between 80 and 110 families each week through their Campus Kitchen. Its clients range from families with young children to homebound seniors.

The Campus Kitchen chapter at the University of Nebraska at Kearney now has its first permanently endowed fund thanks to a $25,000 gift that will provide annual support for its important mission of helping those in need.

The gift from Bemis Company Foundation was made in honor of Barbara Johnson, vice chancellor of business and finance at UNK, for her years of service as a member of the Bemis Company’s board of directors. Headquartered in Wisconsin, the company was founded in 1858 and is a major supplier of flexible packaging used by leading food, consumer products, healthcare and other companies worldwide.

The donation created the Barbara L. Johnson Endowment for Student Community Services at the University of Nebraska Foundation to provide perpetual support for UNK’s Campus Kitchen and its mission to feed in-need community members. The student managed organization prepares and delivers meals to between 80 and 110 families each week, including a Thanksgiving meal during its TurkeyPalooza event. Its clients range from families with young children to homebound seniors.

“Establishing a source of permanent funding for this program ensures that members of our community will receive the nourishment that is needed,” Johnson said.

UNK’s Campus Kitchen program works to fight hunger while reducing waste. The majority of food donations come from leftover food from Kearney Public Schools. The organization also receives donations of food from CHI Health Good Samaritan and local churches. The meal is rounded out with purchased fruits and vegetables and items from the organization’s pantry, which is stocked with donations from food drives held by campus groups. About 10 to 15 student volunteers work to collect, prepare and deliver food each week.

“The endowment Ms. Johnson has established will serve as a permanent source of capital to help UNK’s student leaders implement new ideas and systems to address hunger in our community,” said Jon Watts, director of business services and accounts payable at UNK. “Funding is always the biggest hurdle, and her gift will serve as a foundation to ensure students open the doors each fall focused on serving meals.”

Johnson was inspired to create the endowed fund by the student who started the Campus Kitchen Program at UNK. His passion for the program helped her understand the need for this program in the Kearney community.

“I admire our students who have continued to support and manage Campus Kitchen,” Johnson said. “I know that in this great country of ours, hunger and malnutrition are problems that do not gain much public attention. When I was asked what organization I would like to support with my gift, the only organization that I identified was UNK’s Campus Kitchen.”

Johnson began working in higher education in 1984 and joined UNK in 2007, where she was the first woman to be appointed as vice chancellor for business and finance. She received her bachelor’s degree in business education from Hampton University in Virginia and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.

To support the UNK Campus Kitchen, donations may be made to the Barbara L. Johnson Endowment for Student Community Services or the UNK Campus Kitchens Fund online at Gifts made payable to the University of Nebraska Foundation may also be sent to: University of Nebraska Foundation, PO Box 2678, Kearney, NE 68848.

For more information about supporting UNK Campus Kitchen, contact Anne McConkey, director of development, at 308-698-5282 or
media Contact:  Robb Crouch, NU Foundation, 402-458-1142,

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