Homelessness and food insecurity levels are continually on the rise. Though this is a tragic time for many, communities have shown their support in helping those in need. Before we get into why soup kitchens (or as they’re more commonly referred to nowadays as ‘meal programs’) are crucial to our society, we’ll give a brief overview of what a soup kitchen is. It’s important to know that soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks are not the same things. Each is distinctly different, though they all provide invaluable services to our community.
These are general outlines of what each service provides. Food banks store food and provide it to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and other similar services. Typically, food banks are where donated foods are stored. Food pantries are able to distribute food collected at food banks to those in needs.
Soup kitchens are distinctly different in that those in need can come to one and receive a hot meal. These are usually independently owned, meaning that you’ll have to look for them on a local level.
Meal programs rely heavily on steady, reliable volunteer work. While most people think of volunteering around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, the truth is that volunteering year round is much more helpful. This is because during the holidays most meal programs have too many volunteers. Seemingly, it’s a good problem to have, but it usually means that new volunteers don’t get near the training they need.
Why volunteer? To some, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and pork chops are a standard – perhaps even boring – meal. To others, it’s a desperate wish. Meal programs provide a safe place for those in need to get a complete, whole meal. They operate regular hours 365 days a year, meaning that those in need know exactly when they can expect their next meal.
Whether the people who visit these places go for just one meal or rely on it daily, meal programs make life better for everyone. Those in need of a hot meal can eat, and those in need of some food for the soul can volunteer.
These places matter because they better our community. They give to those in need. They allow us to demonstrate our kindness, caring, and decency. These are places that can keep a child full, give a man down on his luck the energy to power through a long day of work, and can give a hungry mother the food she needs to make milk for her baby. And for you, dear volunteer, they can give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose.