Organic Soup Kitchen Eliminates Food Insecurity for Our Vulnerable, Low-Income Neighbors – Noozhawk

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Organic Soup Kitchen provides plant based oncology nutrition to provide food security and strengthen the immune systems of a diverse demographic of cancer patients, chronically ill and low income seniors.
Source: Sheridan Taphorn | Special to Noozhawk
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In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Jennifer Hyle, Development Manager at Organic Soup Kitchen, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated to providing plant based oncology nutrition to provide food security and strengthen the immune systems of a diverse demographic of cancer patients, chronically ill and low income seniors.
Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?
Answer: Organic Soup Kitchen provides metabolic oncology nutrition and food security to support the health and wellness of low income individuals with cancer or chronic illness.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?
A: The inspiration behind Organic Soup Kitchen is a deep passion for helping others and the belief that all people should have access to nutrition that nourishes their body and soul. Every day we are inspired by the thousands of clients who tell us their lives have been enhanced by our life sustaining SoupMeals.
Our team has dedicated their lives to researching the clinical effects of whole organic foods on disease prevention and recovery. It’s through this work alongside oncologists, nutritionists and other medical professionals, that we have formulated anti-inflammatory soup recipes that strengthen the immune system and provide nutritional security.
Nutritional security is the belief that all individuals deserve access to the right food to prevent or alleviate diet related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It is our honor and privilege to help others acheive health, healing and longevity through nutrition.
Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?
A: We are primarily funded by community members, private and family foundations. We are currently experiencing smaller grant awards while at the same time our demand continues to grow. As a result, we have been forced to start a waiting list for our services. While we anticipate additional resources, we realize that the unstable economic environment is having an impact on funding opportunities. Our greatest need is for additional funding to continue to purchase medicinal quality ingredients. Our organization is 85% volunteer led which reduces overhead and ensures that resources go directly to the product and service we provide. We are committed to seeking the additional income necessary to move people off our waiting list and maintain the high level of demand in our community.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your nonprofit?
A: When Covid hit in March 2020, the demand for our SoupMeals skyrocketed and we nearly tripled the number of clients we serve from 300 to 700 each week. Our organization was in a unique position to scale up its production and delivery services and we leaped into action providing emergency services to our community. Our nutrient dense SoupMeals were especially beneficial to low income seniors, cancer patients and other residents with compromised immune systems. This volume of serving nearly 700 clients each week is now our new normal and we continue to seek additional funding to support this level of demand.
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Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?
A: Since 2009, we have been the only organization making and delivering nutrient-dense SoupMeals to Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable residents. Our Cancer & Chronic Illness Prevention and Recovery Program provides premium nutrition and food security straight to the doors of more than 700 low income seniors, cancer patients and chronically ill each week. More than 90% of our clients are low income, 95% are age 65+ and nearly 70% are people of color. Our staff is bilingual and we collaborate with agencies to address the food and nutritional security needs of marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, chronic illness and financial hardship. We receive referrals and distribute SoupMeals in collaboration with more than 20 health and human service agencies aligned with our mission.
Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?
A: We provide a service that is unique in its approach. While there are other food distribution sites, we are the only organization in the country hand crafting clinically researched SoupMeals and delivering them to the doorsteps of community members. We fill a gap by making fully prepared meals with clean, anti-inflammatory ingredients that support the compromised immune systems of seniors, cancer patients and chronically ill.
Cancer and chronic illness are on the rise. Research shows processed foods, full of sugar, sodium and fat, are inexpensive and addictive and perpetuate the cycle of chronic illness. We have worked with leading oncologists to formulate soup recipes that specifically address the needs of people with compromised immune systems, and our soups have no additives, fillers or preservatives. Every recipe is a balanced meal with 25-30 organic vegetables and grains, medicinal quality herbs and spices and healthy fats and oils to strengthen the immune system. Soups are hermetically sealed in BPA-free containers for 100% safety. The weekly delivery by a compassionate volunteer delivery driver who has become a trusted face, is something our clients look forward to and breaks the chain of isolation many of our fragile clients experience.
As we have grown, so has our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint. We have a robust zero waste food rescue program to salvage thousands of pounds of produce and support the local food economy. We are transitioning our packaging to 100% compostable materials. And, we are the central composting hub for the City of Santa Barbara. Our mission is in direct alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) put forward by the United Nations. We recognize that organizations like ours can take impactful steps and offer creative solutions to ensure the sustainability of our people and planet.
Q: What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?
A: Our state of the art stainless steel kitchen features two 60 gallon kettles, large enough to fit two or three average height adults in each one! Every week we handcraft more than 1,000 pounds of soup containing over 500 pounds of organic vegetables.
Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?
A: Our impact is best reflected in the words of our clients. We receive daily testimonials from clients who tell us that our soups are “life sustaining” and “the only thing that keeps me going and gives me energy.” This is a letter we recently received from a senior client Eddie T.
“The Organic Soup Kitchen is a sip of heaven here in Santa Barbara. I had cancer almost two years ago when I first heard of these Angels and their “Cancer Soup”…The soup was just about the only thing I could eat, and it kept me off the feeding tube that so many of my other friends endured. Now, for the interesting part, at first, I couldn’t taste the soup and then just barely before I graduated to more solid foods. Now, almost two years later, the radiation has claimed my teeth, all my teeth. I’m in the process of replacing them with implants and I cannot eat anything solid for six months. So, I called to see if I still qualified or should I sign up again when Andrea said, wait, I remember you, of course, Eddie, what can we do for you? I must tell you; almost all of my taste buds are intact now and the soup is out of this world delicious! Who knew? … I’m enjoying every drop and I would recommend you look into The Organic Soup Kitchen and please support their efforts as a nonprofit, they are miracle workers. I would fall short of superlatives if I tried to describe these folks and the compassion they showed me and so many others.”
Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?
A: We have been in operation since 2009 and have received a platinum rating on Guidestar and Charity Navigator. We recently received recognition as a Food Systems Hero at the 2021 United Nations Food Summit. We were selected by the City of Santa Barbara to be the City’s Composting Hub for food scraps. We have been nominated as a proud member of 1% for the Planet. We are primarily a volunteer led organization and occasionally have opportunities for community members who want to help us further our mission.
Q: Can you tell us one short-term goal AND one long-term goal that your nonprofit has for the next year?
A: In the next 12 months, we will transition to 100% compostable packaging including containers, lids, and seals. This initiative will save more than 100,000 plastic containers from the landfill and ocean each year. As part of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, we will retool our packaging equipment and redesign our containers to include nutritional content.
Our long term goal is to take impactful steps and offer creative solutions on a broad scale to ensure the sustainability of our people and planet. We have an established business model that is unique to the non profit community. We believe that extending this model across the United States will strengthen communities and foster collective impact. It is our vision to share our comprehensive model with like minded agencies who wish to duplicate our manufacturing and distribution processes in other regions of the country.
Click here to support Organic Soup Kitchen's mission to provide metabolic oncology nutrition and food security to support the health and wellness of low income individuals with cancer or chronic illness.
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