With the arrival of November, my thoughts naturally turn to the holidays . . . and food. One of my true joys is celebrating with family and friends at a dinner table overflowing with good food and great conversation.
For many, however, food is not about celebration. It is about survival. That’s why my thoughts at this time of the year also turn to organizations such as the Community Soup Kitchen of New Haven. This small group of dedicated individuals is at the forefront of making sure that everyone — regardless of personal or financial situation — has access to regular nutritious meals.
With a paid staff of only three, a volunteer coordinator, an all-volunteer Board and an enthusiastic army of volunteers, the Community Soup Kitchen provides breakfast and lunches four days a week as well as other services. Their guests, as they refer to those they serve, include the jobless, homeless, elderly, those living with AIDS, those living on welfare, the mentally ill, chronic substance abusers, single parents, the working poor, veterans, and the lonely and hungry people of our community.
Their mission is simple, yet inspiring:
- To provide free, nutritious meals on a regular basis in the downtown New Haven community for the benefit of the poor and underprivileged.
- To enhance the dignity and sense of worth of all those who come to the kitchen by welcoming them wholeheartedly and warmly as guests of CSK.
- To provide our guests with access to various services during their visits, such as flu shots, warm winter clothing and educational and job referrals.
As their mission states, in addition to providing free nutritious meals, the Community Soup Kitchen also often teams with other agencies such as Hill Health Center, and the ACCESS mental health outreach team, as well as employment and pre-employment resources.
Twice each week they work with Saint Luke’s Services to provide lunch for needy women and children and they also provide bagged lunches for the homeless outreach program at Fellowship Place.
Director Dave O’Sullivan and his team make all of this happen with an annual budget of just a few hundred thousand dollars and without any state or federal funds. Fortunately they receive some food from government programs, grants from the City of New Haven as well as contributions from individuals and organizations. I am honored to say that those supporting organizations include the Tariq Farid Foundation, and it is my hope that others will join us in making sure that no one in their community goes hungry, not just during the upcoming season of celebration, but every day of the year.