Nonprofit’s commercial kitchen gets upgrades to accommodate ‘skyrocketing’ demand
For the past 10 years, Organic Soup Kitchen has been working to eliminate food insecurity for vulnerable, low-income neighbors and seniors battling cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Before the pandemic, the nonprofit had approximately 350 clients, delivering nutrient-dense meals with medicinal quality herbs and spices to their doors.
Now, as a result of COVID-19, the organization has more than 700 clients.
“Demand has increased because people like when they have something that is medically sealed and they know it’s safe,” Andrea Carroccio, the chief operating officer of Organic Soup Kitchen, told the News-Press. “When you go to a restaurant, you don’t know where that cook’s been. You don’t know what sanitary things they’ve been practicing.”
Because of the new influx of demand, the nonprofit’s 2,000 square-foot commercial kitchen at 708 Anacapa St. closed last week for upgrades, which include a new antimicrobial floor and a new office space above it. It is set to reopen Sunday.
The non-porous epoxy floor will be waterproof, anti-skid and specially designed to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and mold. This type of flooring is typically found in food manufacturing, pharmaceutical and healthcare facilities.
In addition, the new office space will be located above the kitchen.
“This will help us to accommodate and work faster, and be more efficient in the space,” Mrs. Carroccio said.
Organic Soup Kitchen’s SoupMeal recipes strengthen the immune system, promote healing and increase vitality because they’re all hermetically sealed in BPA-free containers. This provides clients with 100% safe, clinically-backed nutrition with no additives, preservatives or fillers.
“People are scared to leave their homes,” Mrs. Carroccio said. “At one point, a lot of our clients had not left their homes for six months. We were their only source of food, along with other agencies, for a long six months.”
So, volunteers reached out to their usual clients to see who needed SoupMeals and other premade food as well because of their financial status. The COO said many clients lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
“They had to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table, and our services helped them to be able to continue providing for their families while they went through either treatments or loss of jobs, or (when) they were just scared to leave their homes for the pandemic,” she said.
Clients are referred to Organic Soup Kitchen from nearly 20 agencies in the county’s public health and human services sector including Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and all of the local cancer centers. Volunteers also provide SoupMeals to nearly a dozen agencies that distribute them to their low-income residents and clients who would otherwise not have access to nutrient dense food.
Since 2009, the kitchen has served more than 1 million SoupMeals to clients in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Summerland, Carpinteria and the Santa Ynez Valley.
“It’s been challenging. When the pandemic first began, we didn’t have access to the produce we normally had. … Prices had skyrocketed — tripled — in all our produce and ingredients and supplies,” Mrs. Carroccio said. “But, we’re going into our 12th year and we’ve never let the Santa Barbara community down, so we’re still happy to be here and thank the community for all their support.”
To learn more about the soup kitchen’s efforts and to donate, visit organicsoupkitchen.org.