This month local non-profit community restaurant Feed’em Soup is celebrating 2 years of serving area residents restaurant quality meals in a “pay-if-you-can” setting. The group has served more than 50 community meals to date resulting in over 11,000 individual plates of food since September 2010. Earlier this year the group served a record 368 plates of food during a single 2 hour seating. While some classify the organization as a soup kitchen, organizers say they are only similar in name.
Dinner guests arrive at the group’s headquarters much of which is a shared space with The Church In DeKalb. The group utilizes 1,800 square feet of kitchen space and enough dining room tables and chairs to comfortably seat 150 guests at any one time. During a 2 hour dinner service each table is seated twice to accommodate the need. Guests are greeted by a host who interacts with them as if they were at any other restaurant. The guests are seated at a table and a server greets them shortly to bring them drinks – lemonade, water or coffee – and to take their order. Their order arrives fresh from the kitchen, cooked from scratch the same day by Chef Alex Smith on real dishes with real silverware. Guests are also able to choose from several desserts after they finish their meal. The only difference between Feed’em Soup and any other restaurant is at the end of the meal there is no bill. A small donation can sits in the caddy of each table. Guests who are able are welcome to contribute any amount. A couple dollars covers the cost of an individual’s food. Guests that leave larger donations are covering the cost for others who are not able to contribute.
“We really want to stress that our meals are open to everyone.” Marketing and Brand Director Derek Gibbs said. “Our meals are here for the entire community – everyone will be eating dinner – why not with us? Rather than spending $20 at your local fast food chain come get a fresh restaurant caliber meal cooked by our chef and know that your $20 is covering not only your meal but the meal for guests at another table that otherwise might not be able to afford anything for dinner.”
Currently the group serves meals two to three times each month. While they are eyeing expanding services to once per week in 2013. This increase is dependent upon the support of the community. The big picture for Feed’em Soup organizers sees 3 – 4 dinner services each week several years down the road. “The need is definitely there” said Randi Ackland the group’s Executive Director. “We have people come in that tell us they would not have eaten that day if it weren’t for us. We don’t ever want that to be the case for anyone.”
While multiple meals per week means adding paid staff to ensure the day to day operations of the group are being handled. Feed’em Soup organizers and local restaurant owners have come up with an immediate solution until the group can expand its hours.
This October Feed’em Soup chef Alex Smith will begin providing local restaurants with fresh original soups to offer on their menus. The only stipulation? The soups must be served on a pay-if-you-can basis. A donation box will be placed on the counter of the restaurant. Guests that are able are welcome to leave a donation in the box for their soup to help offset the costs. Not able to contribute? No problem. It’s all on the honor system. 100% of all donations collected will go toward funding the program.
Riccardi’s Red Hots in Sycamore and The House Cafe in DeKalb have signed on to be participating restaurants in this exciting new program titled “The Feed’em Soup of The Day”. The Restaurants will receive their first batch of soup in early to mid October. The groups goal is to supply each restaurant with 2 or 3 different soups each month that they can rotate each day. The program will begin on a trial basis for a month or two and Feed’em Soup organizers and restaurant staff will evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
“It’s exciting for us to know that at any given time there is a great warm meal waiting for someone that needs it.” Chef Alex Smith said. Visit Feed’em Soup’s website now to learn more about them.