Become a Soup Kitchen Volunteer

Soup kitchens came about in the U.S. in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s, which left millions unemployed and unable to meet basic food needs. Today they remain a valuable contribution in poor communities, even in relatively prosperous areas. But what’s great about soup kitchens today is that they are run almost entirely by volunteers, people dedicating their time to helping those in need.

Working as a soup kitchen volunteer isn’t as groundbreaking as delivering vaccines to African children, nor is it as professionally rewarding. But its appeal lies in helping people in the most basic of ways—giving them food and water where they would otherwise go hungry. It may not seem obvious, but even in the United States—the world’s epitome of wealth and excess—more than 30 million people go hungry every day. The sheer dedication of volunteers, in soup kitchens and elsewhere, is what keeps these people going and gives them a chance at rebuilding their lives.

Soup is usually served because it’s easy to make in large batches, and because it can take a large variety of ingredients according to the season. Most soup kitchens also serve bread, and are even called “bread lines” in some areas. The meals can be served for free or at a low price, and ingredients are often sourced from local food banks. Soup kitchens are most active during the winter holiday season, where more people are seeking shelter and warm food.

Volunteers for soup kitchens usually come from local organizations, such as anti-poverty groups or churches. If you’re already part of such a group, ask around to see if they’re affiliated with soup kitchens or food banks. Otherwise, you can contact soup kitchens themselves and ask how you can volunteer. It’s a lot of work, so they’re usually happy to have a helping hand. Your tasks may include basic kitchen work and cleaning, but you may be expected to serve food and help usher people around as well.

It may not be the most glamorous of pastimes, but becoming a soup kitchen volunteer can be one of the most rewarding ways to spend your free time. Besides helping your community, you also get to meet interesting people and gain valuable life experience. Next time you have a day or two to spare, spend a few hours in a soup kitchen and help brighten someone else’s day.

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