The Long Beach Soup Kitchen has been consistently serving meals and providing a food pantry to individuals and families in need in their community since 1983. Stop & Shop has supported this organization through the Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs.
Tell us about the Long Beach Soup Kitchen.
Our mission is straightforward. We are here to feed our food-insecure neighbors in the community. We ask no questions. There are no parameters for how or why you’re using our services.
The Long Beach Soup Kitchen has been around since 1983. We were one of about 15 soup kitchens started by the Interfaith Nutrition Network out of Hempstead, New York. They allowed us to use their nonprofit information and numbers so that we could exist initially through them as a parent company. Then, about six or seven years ago, we established our nonprofit entity.
Today, we are the only nonsectarian soup kitchen in Long Beach. And we’ve now been in the same location for about 20 years. We are very grateful to the city of Long Beach for allowing us to use this fantastic facility.
What services do you provide to the community?
Since the pandemic, we have been serving only meals to-go. We feel at this time; we are able to address the needs of many who may prefer to get a to-go meal and have access to a food pantry.
Before the pandemic, we served anywhere from 20 to 30 guests daily. Now our numbers have considerably increased to serving around 60 to 90. The outdoor dining consists of a cold lunch: a sandwich, juice box, bag of cookies and potato chips or fruit. We also give each guest a hot meal, consisting of a hot soup daily, a hot protein, a carb or vegetable, and possibly a salad if we have the ingredients. We try our best to give everybody the most nutritious meal possible.
It’s very fulfilling to see all our cooks in action each day. Another volunteer coordinator and I will start the process by giving them a protein to make each day. Then, they’re on their own regarding how they’d like to prepare it. It’s restaurant-quality food served in a restaurant-quality kitchen.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
We’re the only nonprofit in our area that does lunch and hot soup daily. And as I said earlier, we’re nonsectarian. We have no affiliation with any religion. Anybody can feel comfortable to come and enjoy our meals.
We’re the only nonprofit in our area that does lunch and hot soup daily.
Unlike other pantries, we do not ask for anything from any of our guests. We are a no-questions-asked soup kitchen. And I think that makes us a haven for people concerned about immigration issues. Our pantry provides both Spanish and English signs and handouts to ensure there is communication within our diverse community.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
I could spend hours telling stories. Every day we have a sense of satisfaction and gratitude for everyone who works to address the needs in our community. Over the course of years, there have been many guests who express their thanks, and this validates our mission.
One of the things that we’re most impressed with is that we’re a completely volunteer organization. Anybody willing to donate knows that 100 percent of the funds help feed those less fortunate.
Every day we have a sense of satisfaction and gratitude for everyone who works to address the needs in our community.
The proudest thing in my handful of years is that we were one of the only soup kitchens that never closed a single day during the pandemic. We stayed open six days a week for those two years without ever needing to close because we kept our volunteer base very tight. There were eight of us running the soup kitchen every single day. We knew exactly who was doing what, and no one else came in. We have a volunteer who is an ex-nurse, so she was a big help in creating protocols to put in place. When I tell any other person, they’re dumbfounded that we could have kept those controls in place and never closed. We are so proud that we were able to do this.
It was very tough at the height of the pandemic. There was hardly any access to food, and people were afraid to go to stores. We often served around 120 meals a day, which we weren’t prepared for. But we made do and continued to support them. I’m so gratified that we figured this out on the fly and then began making adjustments and learning what was needed. The collaboration of the volunteers who were committed to doing the job we needed to do made the most significant difference.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
When I started, we barely had two nickels to rub together. There were no fundraising efforts. The old management team was concerned about the optics of having a soup kitchen in Long Beach. I came from a sales management background, which allowed me to bring that experience and perspective to the organization. We went from what they thought were terrible optics to: let’s put ourselves out there and ensure the community knows what we’re doing. We can garner fundraising money from people concerned and conscious that every community has a problem. We didn’t even have 30 homeless people in Long Beach at the time. There were only a few, and then those that needed the service, no questions asked.
Over the years, we have built ourselves up to be a prominent nonprofit. The Long Beach Soup Kitchen is well-known in the community, and it seems as if year after year, more local businesses, schools, organizations and neighbors join in our efforts to provide for the kitchen, which helps greatly.
When we started fundraising at different functions, fairs and parades, people would say, “I’ve lived in Long Beach all my life, and I didn’t know there was a soup kitchen.” I’d say, “We’ve been here for 25 years and need your support.” My guidance and the support of all our volunteers have gotten us to a point where Stop & Shop and other organizations know we’re around and have committed to helping us. We are so proud that the work that we do is very effective. We go through a lot of food. And without the support, we couldn’t do what we’re doing.
We are so proud that the work that we do is very effective. We go through a lot of food. And without the support, we couldn’t do what we’re doing.
What do you want people to know about the Long Beach Soup Kitchen?
The Long Beach Soup Kitchen is no-questions-asked. Anybody can join us for a meal. We serve our meal from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every day. And we are welcoming to everyone and anyone; we will do whatever we can to help our guests within our capabilities.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs?
That’s a simple answer. We serve 15,000 meals a year, and money is instrumental in continuing our mission. We have no paid employees. We use the funds exclusively to help feed our guests with healthy, nutritious meals six days a week.
Also, we went from paper goods, Styrofoam and plastic to almost 75 percent recycled material. We decided that all the to-go containers and soup cups would no longer be Styrofoam. We purchase only sustainable recycled products. Some of these funds went to support this effort, and it’s been great for the communities and the ecology. Anything we get from the Stop & Shop Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs goes directly to our guests through our meals.
This is an important thing for people to know. When you donate, you often never know what percentage of the money is actually used for its intended purposes. With the Long Beach Soup Kitchen, 100% of what is donated goes directly to helping our community. We truly do the best that we can with what we have.
Published September 21, 2023.