Soup kitchens have long provided a lifeline for individuals and families in need of hot meals. At food pantries, you will find ingredients for meals to take with you, but soup kitchens offer prepared meals, either to eat on site, or to take to-go style. And by the way, soup kitchens don’t necessarily just serve soup! But, you ask, how do I find a soup kitchen near me?
While the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the ability of some organizations to safely offer prepared meals on-site, soup kitchens are making a comeback. This article includes information about how to find traditional soup kitchens, as well as some soup kitchen alternatives that have become more prominent in recent months.
Churches, Synagogues, Sikh Temples, & Mosques
Faith communities all over the world have always led the way when it comes to alleviating hunger. When you enter a Google search for “soup kitchens near me”, many of the soup kitchens you find are likely to be hosted by your local houses of worship. The important thing to remember when accessing soup kitchens through faith organizations is that it is almost always the policy to serve those seeking food assistance no matter what their religious background is.
The best way to find a soup kitchen taking place at a house of worship near you is to visit their website. However, there are a few things that might be helpful to know as you work to locate the soup kitchens operating near you.
- Catholic Charities is a nationwide network of charitable organizations financed in large part by the Catholic church. You can find Catholic Charities resources, including soup kitchens near you by visiting their website and searching for your zip code. You can also try calling their main switchboard at 703-549-1390.
- Many synagogues and Jewish organizations like this one in Queens, NY, have made a commitment to feeding their surrounding communities. Jewish organizations often serve Kosher meals for those observing this Jewish tradition, but most welcome people of all faiths to partake in their offerings.
- All Sikh temples offer something called langar. Langar is a communal meal shared by everyone in the community, typically seated on the floor together. It does not matter whether you are in need of assistance or not, because the idea is simply to come together as a community. All are welcome, even those who are not part of the Sikh religion. Many Sikh houses of worship have stepped up to expand their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is a Sikh temple near you, consider partaking in their langar.
- National Muslim Soup Kitchen Project (MSKP) is an organization founded in New York’s Capitol Region in 2013 to make sure that on at least one day per year, no one would go hungry. Since 2013, MSKP has expanded their operations nationally. While their soup kitchen is typically hosted on one day per year in May, you will find that Mosques (the Islamic houses of worship) in your community likely host soup kitchens often. Like the other religiously affiliated soup kitchens mentioned above, you do not need to be a member of the Muslim faith in order to utilize a mosque’s soup kitchen.
Shelters & Social Service Organizations
While soup kitchens at shelters are typically targeted toward the unhoused population, they will likely still be able to serve you if you are not homeless. This directory lists shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries in every state in the nation. Make sure to call before you stop by in case their hours have changed or there is other information that has not been updated on their websites.
Why Hunger is a national organization that provides resources to community-based hunger relief programs around the country. You can search their database to find out what kind of hunger relief programs are in your community. Each organization or program is labeled to indicate whether they are a soup kitchen, food pantry, or other type of program.
Meals on Wheels is another national non-profit organization that connects people in need of prepared meals. Meals on Wheels is not a soup kitchen per se, but it is an excellent resource for those who are unable to leave their homes. While most soup kitchens serve everyone in need, Meals on Wheels is only for seniors aged 60 and older, who have a disability or medical condition which prevents them from shopping for groceries and preparing meals for themselves.
When you wonder, where can I find a soup kitchen near me, it’s unlikely that schools are the first thing that comes to mind. However, many school districts around the U.S. offer free meals, not just to students, but to their families and community members as well.
While food distribution at schools varies significantly depending on where you live, you will find that there are generous meal distribution programs at schools across the country. For example, in New York City, children and their family members can currently pick up meals at many schools throughout the city every day. Kansas City Public Schools and some Oakland Public Schools offer grab-and-go lunches all summer for anyone under the age of 18. Check your local school district’s website to find out whether your family and/or children can receive free meals from a nearby public school.
On top of that, all students are entitled to free school lunch through 2022 thanks to a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regardless of their family’s income.
Mutual Aid Organizations
Mutual Aid Networks have popped up all over the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These networks are informal collectives of community members who unite to support one another. In addition to operating food pantries and other hunger relief programs, Mutual Aid Networks often host pop-up soup kitchens, or deliver hot meals to community members in need. This Mutual Aid Network in Big Stone Gap, VA hosts a community meal on the third Sunday of each month, where they also distribute hygiene and grocery items. This Mutual Aid Network in Chicago occasionally hosts community meals, and also helps community members find soup kitchens in the area.
Visit mutualaidhub.org to find a Mutual Aid Network near you, no matter where you live in the United States.
When you are looking to find a hot meal for yourself and your family, it can be difficult to know where to turn. We hope these resources are a good start and are helpful when you are in need of a prepared meal.