A Spoonful of Kindness
One of my fondest memories growing up was in a soup kitchen. When I was younger, I volunteered at the Crossroads Soup Kitchen in Detroit. While I knew that it was a nice thing to do to help out my community, I was not prepared for how much it would teach me. I met so many endearing people, and listened to each of their diverse stories. Most importantly to me, I made people happy. I counted each smile as I poured ladle after ladle of hot soup. Back then, I did not realize how much of an impact a seemingly miniscule job could have on a city. Soup kitchens are crucial in assisting hungry homeless people, and they’re always in need of volunteers.
These charities have played an important role throughout American history. The nation’s first soup kitchens were built in 1870 due to the Panic of 1873; they were inspired by similar institutions built by the Irish during the Great Potato Famine. In 1929, in response to the impending Great Depression, soup kitchens became the main source of food for many struggling people (Alchin, 2018). Even notorious gangster, Al Capone, opened a soup kitchen to clean up his reputation in the public eye, and the people of Chicago began to call him a “Modern Day Robin Hood” (Alchin, 2018). The popularity of these soup kitchens lead to more being built in all corners of America.
According to Feeding America, one in seven people (46 million) relies on food from soup kitchens and food banks (Stone, 2014). This growing population proves the need for a high number of these charities and programs across the country. Today, the Feeding America Network consists of nearly one hundred thousand food banks, soup kitchens, and pantries in all fifty states (Stone, 2014). They are truly making a difference in so many people’s lives. Ironically, the charities themselves need help from volunteers in order to continue to help others.
I’m certain that there are people who are interested in volunteering, but unaware of how or where to sign up. The good news is, there are websites available to connect prospective volunteers with locations in their area. HomelessShelterDirectory.org will supply you with a list of soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks nearby. You can also visit FoodPantries.org to learn about more nonprofit organizations that are helping the fight against hunger. If you do not have enough time for a shift of serving food, you can always stop by any location and drop-off nonperishable goods. Possible food donations include, but are not limited to: canned vegetables, canned fruit, salad dressings, mayonnaise, coffee creamers/sweeteners, and teabags. Pantries are also interested in receiving nonedible items like: shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, dish soap, napkins, tissues, and clothing such as hats, scarves, and gloves (Wheels for Wishes, 2017). As you can see, there are options for even the busiest of eager volunteers.
Soup kitchens are making a big impact on our nation’s homeless population. Providing meals free of charge could give a person enough energy to find employment and housing. It can also provide weekend meals to children who rely on reduced or free lunch programs during the week. If you had the time to read this entire article, then you should also have the time to visit your local soup kitchen and donate food. Every small act of kindness is another step towards ending hunger in the United States.
Alchin, L. (2018, January 09). Soup Kitchens: A History. Retrieved from http://www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/soup-kitchens.htm
Stone, A. (2014, August 18). Study Sheds Light on Broadening U.S. Hunger Problem. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140818-hunger-feeding-america-food-banks-aid-charities-meals-ngfood/
Wheels for Wishes (2017, May 01). Find A Local Soup Kitchen Who Needs Your Help This Holiday Season. Retrieved from https://www.wheelsforwishes.org/news/find-a-local-soup-kitchen/