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Soup Kitchen + Food Pantries

Soup Kitchens

A soup kitchen is a center where the hungry and less fortunate can come to eat free meals. They are usually located in lower-income neighborhoods and staffed with volunteers. Food options range from bread and a beverage to fully cooked and nutritional meals. 

Most soup kitchens also provide necessities like clothes and hygiene packages. 

Food Pantries 

A food pantry is a local food program or distribution center where hungry families can pick up food. Frequently, food pantries are confused with food banks, which are much larger non-profits that store millions in pounds of food. Food pantries receive their goods from food banks ( Depending on the size of the food pantry, they can feed hundreds of people per week. It all depends on the type of communities that they arise in. Initially, one of the problems with food banks is that disabled people and the elderly didn’t have easy access to them. Volunteers fixed this problem by introducing mobile pantries on wheels that can move from place to place to deliver pre-packaged boxes to those who can’t reach the stationary pantries. 

Difference between the two

The significant difference between food pantries and soup kitchens is that food pantries give out pre-packaged goods and soup kitchens prepare fresh meals for the community. In addition, soup kitchens don’t turn anyone away and have a no-questions-asked policy. This is ideal for the homeless because it means they can receive help without going through a trying process. Food pantries, however, may have eligibility guidelines. Most accept self-vouching as eligibility. 


In America, soup kitchens arose around 1929 during the rise of the Great Depression. The United States economy’s failure caused thousands of families and millions of individuals to go into poverty. The initiation of soup kitchens was greatly needed for those who could no longer afford food. Notorious gang member Al Capone was the first man to start a soup kitchen. His reasoning for doing this was to clear up his bad reputation. Even if that goal wasn’t fully accomplished, soup kitchens’ initiation continues to benefit millions of Americans today. (

Feeding America writes that food banks came about in the last 1960s and were developed by retired businessman John van Hengel. After meeting a desperate mother who regularly rummaged through garbage and wasted food, he was inspired. She gave him the idea that instead of throwing away adequate food, there should be a place to be stored. This brought about the rise of food banks and food pantries where the food could be delivered (


  • “Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country” (
  •  It is estimated that between twelve and twenty-one million people each year rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. (

Why MUST we take action NOW?

With over half a million Americans experiencing homelessness, we can’t just sit back and watch as they starve. There is more than enough food in the world to go around, and access to food shouldn’t be determined based on socioeconomic class and financial ability. Soup kitchens and food pantries provide warm meals for the homeless and less fortunate and supply low-income families with groceries they need to function in their households. For people who don’t have to worry about food insecurity, the privilege of daily nourishment is often taken for granted.


  •  Soup kitchens distribute fresh meals and necessities to individuals and families. Food pantries distribute pre-packaged meals to individuals and families for them to prepare at home. 
  •   Between 12 to 21 million people rely on soup kitchens and food pantries every year. 
  •  The maintenance of soup kitchens and food pantries is heavily dependent on volunteers. 
  • Food pantries and soup kitchens are important non-profits that contribute to the community and help the homeless and less fortunate survive. 
  • Donating to local food pantries, volunteering at local soup kitchens, or spreading the word about opportunities for food-insecure households are all ways to help contribute to your community. 

To volunteer at a food bank or food pantry near you, click the “Volunteer” button below.


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