La Soupe, a nonprofit in Cincinnati, Ohio, is working to fight hunger by turning food waste into meals for those in need.
Launched in 2014 by Chef Suzy DeYoung, La Soupe partners with grocers, distributors, farmers, and restaurants who donate food that would otherwise go to waste and creates soup to feed people experiencing food insecurity.
“Our society is built on the expectation that our stores should always be stocked with every possible variation of every ingredient,” DeYoung tells Food Tank. She explains that while grocers do their best to minimize waste while meeting consumer demand, they are still forced to toss food.
La Soupe helps to rescue food by dispatching volunteers to their partners when they report a surplus. Chefs then transform the rescued ingredients into soup, which DeYoung deems “one of the most universal comfort foods” that is “near impossible to make for one person.”
The meals are distributed by more volunteers to over 100 partner pantries and other agencies across Cincinnati. As part of their Bucket Brigade Program, they also partner with local chefs, who rescue produce from their own restaurants and La Soupe to transform into meals.
The organization has rescued 907,000 kilograms (2 million pounds) of food, donated 1,200 million servings to agencies, and produced 733,661 servings by local chefs since it opened.
In addition to sharing meals, La Soupe shares their knowledge. The average American household spends US$1,866 annually on food that will be wasted, according to a study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. La Soup is working to provide culinary education through their Give a Crock Cooking Classes and Cooking Improv which provide lessons to help people prevent food waste at home.
Influenced by her father and grandfather — both chefs who lived through the World Wars — DeYoung chooses to view food waste and hunger as a war. By doing so, she says, “it will receive the attention it deserves and we can win” because it “brings immediacy and a call to action, and we need this now.”
To help this fight, La Soupe also launched the Community Kitchen Program in 2020 to combat higher rates of food insecurity resulting from COVID-19. The program partners with restaurants to employ chefs and staff who use their expertise to rescue more food and create more meals.So far, they have produced over 640,000 servings and have given over US$615,000 to the restaurant community.
DeYoung says that the pandemic also increased demand for their services and changed how they were able to operate. Volunteers have not been able to return at maximum capacity and some of their cooking classes are held virtually. Fortunately, the Community Kitchen Program has been able to work with restaurants throughout the city to increase their reach.
DeYoung tells Food Tank that “a long road of systems change is needed to fix this disparity” and address the hunger crisis, but she looks forward to continuing to do what she can to feed her community.
Photo courtesy of La Soupe