COLD SPRING, Minn. -- When the dining center closes at the College of Saint Benedict, the Community Kitchen opens. Instead of dumping surplus food, the Community Kitchen puts it to good use.

"Community Kitchen's strategy is to use food as a catalyst for education, collaboration and community action," said Natalie Keane, a former Bennie turned Americorps Vista member who launched the pilot program.

The Community Kitchen brings nutritious meals to local non-profits. Each Friday students from St. Bens and St. Johns pack up to share a meal at Rocori High school with young girls from Casa Guadalupe Multicultural Community. The meals nourish more than just the body it also feeds the spirit of community.

"The sense of community is felt through sharing a meal and I think that is very transformative in and of itself," Keane said.

Mayuli Bales, executive director of Casa Guadalupe, said giving young girls from her program the chance to sit down for a meal with college students creates a ripple effect that can't be replicated anywhere else.

"The program is not just giving the food and going away, the program is building the relationship," Bales said.

Bales says the partnership challenges the youth they serve to think about college, too.

The program has recovered nearly 1,000 pounds of food. Community Kitchen recently partnered with Hunger Free Minnesota to expand its reach. The two organizations will work together to connect surplus food from businesses to non-profits across the state.