History

History

The history of soup kitchens in America can be traced back to the year 1929 with the effects of a growing depression. When soup kitchens first appeared, they were run by churches or private charities and served mostly soup and bread. Soup was economical because water could be added to serve more people. Soup kitchens continue to exist for the homeless and struggling families across America.

The Soup Kitchen of Boynton Beach is a remarkable example of what sincere dedication can create when coupled with the service of a group of highly committed and compassionate people.

The Soup Kitchen Old TruckIn 1983, three women were determined to make a difference in the lives of our county’s most unfortunate people.  These women – Gwen James, Veronica Payne and Bee Brown – had a vision to feed the local poor.  They were persistent and managed to secure a donated van. That was the start…..a donated van used to provide soup and sandwiches to local hungry families. These women were particularly concerned with people in economic distress – families who did not receive community support and who were often exploited.  Word spread among the hungry about the van offering soup and sandwiches and it soon became apparent that they needed to do more in order to serve the increased number of people in need.

The ladies recognized that an actual soup kitchen located closer to people in need was required. The goal was to feed more of the hungry and provide them a hot meal at lunchtime as well as a place where they could receive some basic food items to assist them with the preparation of other meals.

The women managed to get an old building at the corner of Highway 441 and Boynton Beach Boulevard to be donated.  They secured the help of the community to convert the premises to a place reflective of a soup kitchen.  Local businesses rallied together, providing materials, skilled know-how, and labor to completely renovate the building. The distribution of dry goods and staple food items began with a three days a week schedule in June 1984.   October 1984 all the requirements of the Palm Beach County Health Department for serving cooked food had been met and The Soup Kitchen began to serve hot meals. Between 1984 and 1999, well over 260,000 people signed in for a nutritious hot meal and over 1,300,000 bags of food were given out.

The Soup Kitchen outgrew its original space and in 1997 moved to its current location at 8645 W. Boynton Beach Blvd.   To undertake this move required the generous support of the local community. Once again, the devotion and effort of many local businesses and tireless volunteers made the move a reality.

Since our humble beginnings, we have not remained still. We have responded to the increasing needs of those we serve by providing more support.  For example:

  • In 2002, we began distributing turkeys every year to our guests in time for their Thanksgiving celebration.  Today, we make it possible for over 400 families to enjoy a special meal in their home.
  • In 2006, we began to collect donations of clothing and make them available to our guests at no cost.
  • In 2007, The Soup Kitchen became a place for Santa Claus to visit just in time for the holidays. We started collecting toys and blessed by the reaction of the community who up until recently made Christmas 2011 amazingly special – 603 kids received at minimum two gifts each from Santa!  You just never know who will show up at the Soup Kitchen!
  • In 2008, we launched our weekly educational program: Taking Care of our Babies. By sharing information on how to properly care for their children, we have seen expectant and mothers of young children take the well being of their family more seriously.

Nearly 30 years in existence!  Today, we take pride in the fact that we have served over 3 million hot meals since 1983!

Your generosity empowers The Soup Kitchen to feed those who are less fortunate and respond with increased services. The Soup Kitchen does not receive nor have we ever received any local, county or federal government funding.  Everything we do is funded by caring and concerned individuals like you, who generously provide us money, time, and talent.

Accomplishments

With the generous support of our community, we are proud of the following, which we have accomplished in the last five years:

  • Serving now approximately 600 hot meals per day!
  • Giving away over 100 food bags per day!
  • Reaching the milestone of serving over 3,000,000 hot meals since 1983!
  • Expanding our list of providers has enabled us to meet the increased demand. This year, The Soup Kitchen welcomed: Gordon Food Service, Winn Dixie Supermarkets, and BJ’s Warehouse and are grateful for their generosity.
  • Launching the weekly educational program, Taking Care of our Babies in 2008
  • In 2009, we extended The Soup Kitchen’s storage area by 1,000 feet.  Not only has this resulted in a savings of monthly storage fees, we are now able to better store and manage our inventory.
  • Making available annually a record 400 turkeys in time for Thanksgiving holiday!
  • Providing Christmas gifts to approximately 603 children!
  • In 2012, we arranged to have the water line connected to the city. We previously had a septic tank and separate water line.
  • In 2012, we pursued natural gas lines for the stoves and convection ovens replacing propane which was four times more expensive.  The Soup Kitchen anticipates a substantial annual savings from this change.
  • In August of this year (2012) we replaced our leaky roof thanks to a generous donor!