The Soup Kitchen was born out of a continued need perceived by Fr. William Grady, Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Prior to establishing the Soup Kitchen, the UAW operated a kitchen at the YWCA. Because of the loss of manufacturing plants and an aging UAW membership in Muncie, they announced they needed to close but the hungry still needed to be fed. The idea of operating a soup kitchen was supported by St. Mary’s Parish Council and they appropriated a grant of $10,000 to initiate the Harvest Soup Kitchen.
A board was formed with members of the three local parishes St. Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Lawrence. St. Lawrence provided us with a space to operate the kitchen in their former school. Shortly thereafter we hired our first director, Debbie Tucker and we were off and running. Those first years were not always easy which made us especially thankful to all those who have dedicated their time, talents, and treasures to this endeavor.
The Harvest Soup Kitchen progressed through the years and became an established nonprofit 501c3 organization. The board has grown to include members from all walks for life including professors, teachers, business and manufacturing professionals, hair design professionals, and health professionals. We strive to be inclusive with our staff, board, volunteers, and guests.
In 2017, we rebranded ourselves from the Harvest Soup Kitchen to the Soup Kitchen of Muncie. We kicked off the rebrand at our Annual Dinner and Auction. We performed a complete redesign of our logo and promotional materials and increased our social media presence through a redesigned web page, Facebook page and weekly blog blasts.
In the last 5-10 years (pre-pandemic), the number of visitors to the kitchen increased to between 34,000 and 37,000 per year meaning we served between 68,000 and 74,000 meals annually since each visitor to the kitchen receives a hot meal and the sack lunch. We are truly located in a food desert in Muncie and the need is great. Although these numbers declined during the Covid 19 pandemic, our numbers are rising once again as food and financial resources decline as pandemic assistance wanes.
As we look forward to the future in this first formal strategic plan, our fundraising will need to become even more extensive to support our new goals. We will be increasing outreach to our community members for support and collaboration. One example of this is our annual picnic planned with a neighborhood group of supporters in July before school starts. We invite other nonprofits and community services that also assist our guests in connecting to resources in the community of benefit to them.
We, as well as others in the neighborhood group, participate in the Food Council that is combating hunger in our community with collaborations between Ball State University, Purdue Extension agents, the food hub and other organizations that are working to eliminate food insecurity in our area and we look forward to this collaboration continuing well into the future.
We also now participate in a monthly meeting of local nonprofit organizations providing us with support during the pandemic and numerous additional contacts in the community.
Soup Kitchen of Muncie is the first line of help for many people in our community. As we start our 28th year in 2022, we look forward to continuing to provide a safe place for people in need to come, share a meal, find relief from the weather, have social interaction and access important resources.