Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“Meal Programs” versus “Soup Kitchens”

In recognition of Hunger Action Week, we would like to share an article put together by the Meals Partnership Coalition, a group of 70 Seattle-area organizations that work to serve more than 5,000,000 no-cost meals per year to community members who would otherwise go hungry.

There are many terms used to describe the organizations that serve prepared food to people in need. Two common terms are “soup kitchens and “meal programs.” But what do they mean? In 1802 the first American soup kitchen intended to feed the needy was opened by the Humane Society of New York City and was widely accepted as needed to support those who struggled with hunger. From the 1820’s to the 1920’s soup kitchens lost popularity in the United States with the rise of the view that social programs just perpetuated poverty and need. Then the Great Depression hit. During the 1930’s soup kitchens served millions of people to help stave off hunger in our country. A soup kitchen was traditionally just that, a kitchen that served soup and bread to those needing food support. After the Great Depression many social programs were established which once again were instrumental in the loss of popularity of soup kitchens until the 1980’s.

During the 1980’s many people in need were not receiving enough support from government benefits and once again no-cost meal programs were needed to meet the hunger needs of our community. When meal programs became a popular method of providing nutritional support during the 1980’s many groups and organizations recognized the importance of creating and serving more nutritionally sound meals. Since the resurgence of these important programs, changes in American eating habits have occurred and a movement to recognize the importance of nutritionally dense and balanced meals has become widely recognized. Gone are the bowls of soup and pieces of bread. Today those basic items have been replaced by a serving of lean protein, vegetable, fruit, and dairy; a complete balanced meal. Based upon the changes we have seen in how and what is served within free meal programs there is now
a movement to change the name of this important resource from “soup kitchen” to “meal program.”

You can support the PNA Hot Meal Program with cash contributions, donations of food or supplies, by volunteering, or with a special gift such as a commercial coffee grinder, which would help us make be the best use of donated coffee beans.
Click HERE to learn more about how to get involved!

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