The Soup Kitchen celebrates 40 years of providing food for those in Victoria who need it most.
The non-profit charitable organization currently operates out of the industrial kitchen in the basement of St. Andrew’s Cathedral on View Street.
While it is a non-denominational organization, the kitchen in the church is the perfect space for volunteers to prepare lunches, said Teri Hustins, who works with The Soup Kitchen.
Prior to the pandemic, Hustins said volunteers prepared a sit-down lunch for patrons.
However, since March 2020, they have transitioned to a bagged-lunch system that allows people to take their food to go.
The operation, which Hustins called “a well-oiled machine,” starts with chefs coming in as early as 4 a.m. to start the protein-rich soup that is the base of each lunch.
Later in the morning, around 7 a.m., more volunteers arrive to make the sandwiches and bag up the other contents of the lunch.
“We are completely volunteer run, led and organized,” Hustins said. “We have about 10 volunteers per shift – each weekday – that put the lunches together.”
Each bag contains a soup, sandwich, yogurt, hard-boiled egg and a few sweets from the COBS Bread location on Oak Bay Avenue.
“We also offer our patrons bagged breads,” Hustins added. “We receive a lot of donations from COBS Bread on Oak Bay, so patrons are welcome to take a loaf of bread or buns and with that, we offer a little tub of peanut butter. It’s a very nutritious, warm, protein-rich, bagged lunch that we try to offer folks.”
Keeping the lunches interesting and healthy is the main goal of organizers. With each day, they are seeing more and more people, from all different backgrounds, showing up at 8 a.m. when the doors open.
From people who are unhoused or struggling with addiction to seniors on a fixed income, The Soup Kitchen serves a broad demographic.
The organization strives to serve as many people as possible – currently providing 3,000 meals per month, but the costs are rising.
“We’re seeing, especially in the past couple of months, quite a spike in the number of people we serve each day,” Hustins said. “With the food becoming so much more expensive because of inflation, our costs are going up.”
To counter rising costs and the increasing number of people coming for lunch, The Soup Kitchen receives donations from community partners like the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, which recently donated a grant for a new bread slicer.
In honour of operating for 40 years, The Soup Kitchen launched a campaign on Nov. 12 with a fundraising goal of $24,000. Donations from the campaign, which will run until Dec. 21, will be dedicated to feeding 4,000 people.
“To think that this has been going on in our city for 40 years … it is really an incredible organization,” Hustins said.
The Soup Kitchen is open from 8 until 10 a.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information on the organization, visit thesoupkitchen.ca.