History of the soup kitchen

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 in 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.

Aerial view of TSK c. 2013
Original location at 441 & Boynton Beach Blvd. c. 1983

In 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.

They 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 1983 and 2018, well over 3,000,000 people signed in for a nutritious hot meal and over 6,000,000 bags of food were given out.

Opening of the current Soup Kitchen location in 1997

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 and trimmings every year to our guests in time for their Thanksgiving celebration.  Today, we make it possible for over 1,000 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.

Distributing Thanksgiving Turkeys and Trimmings in 2013
You just never know who will show up at The Soup Kitchen!

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 2017 amazingly special – 880 kids received at minimum two gifts each from Santa!

Over 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.

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.

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

  • Soup Kitchen opens 365 days a year, serving now approximately 800 hot meals per day!
  • Giving away over 500 food bags per day!
  • Reaching the milestone of serving over 3,000,000 hot meals since 1983

More than 1,500,000 bags of food handed out to guests since 1983.

  • In 2018 we launched the weekly educational program, Taking Care of our Babies
  • 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 1,000 turkeys in time for Thanksgiving holiday!
  • Providing Christmas gifts to approximately 880 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 2012 we replaced our leaky roof thanks to a generous donor!
  • In 2014, we upgraded the kitchen with new professional, commercial grade appliances (grill, soup kettle, hood, range, counters, racks, etc.)
  • In 2014, we replaced the original air conditioning system with a new, 5-ton unit.
  • In 2015, GL Commercial donated a free office space to run the Meals on Wheels program.

In 2015 we started our Meals On Wheels Program, delivering today as much as 140 nutritionally complete hot meals a day to homebound seniors living in the Boynton Beach area.

Since the program’s inception our Meals On wheels volunteers have logged more than 18,000 hours of service and have delivered more than 63,000 nutritious meals to seniors and chronically or terminally ill people unable to shop or cook for themselves.

  • In 2016, we expanded the Free Clothing Program on Saturdays, thereby increasing the number of garments provided to guests. We distributed more than $454,200 in donated clothes, diapers and furniture that year.
  • In 2016, we also started the Concierge program which allowed us to address the special needs of special guests and refugees by locating and delivering washing machines and dryers, refrigerators and beds (in addition to other furniture).

We currently have the help and support of more than 300 weekly volunteers, without whose help, we couldn’t accomplish all the work we do. This number has grown steadily since our beginnings and will hopefully continue with your help.

In 2017, we rescued more than $8,000,000 of food from grocery store shelves (a continuous increase of at least 12% per year).