After decades in the catering industry, one local lady was inspired to get active in the fight against community hunger. See how she’s turning one man’s trash into another man’s tasty treasure.
Did you know that approximately 40 percent of food goes to waste in the U.S. every year? That accounts for approximately 1.3 billion tons of food in the entire world. That’s right – TONS of food is being wasted every year.
Meanwhile, thousands of families across the country are facing hunger issues. To help curb the gap between food waste and food insecurity, a social enterprise is there – La Soupe.
“La Soupe is a social enterprise formed to bridge the gap between food waste and the food insecure by transforming rescued produce into soupe to share with both the food insecure and those who support our mission,” explains La Soupe Development Director Jessica Kerr.
The mission behind La Soupe was inspired by Suzy DeYoung, who spent 30 years in the catering industry before she could no longer handle seeing the amount of good food that was being wasted.
“In April 2014 she took a leap of faith and opened La Soupe to fulfill her dream of using rescued food to produce gourmet meals for distribution to both retail customers and the food insecure,” adds Kerr.
When it comes to food insecurity, it really hit home for DeYoung. Cincinnati is ranked No. 2 in the country for childhood poverty, and DeYoung wanted to help, which is why the mission behind La Soupe is so dedicated to bridging the gap between waste and those who struggle with food security.
“On a weekly basis, perishable food otherwise headed to the landfill is rescued by a host of La Soupe volunteers from three Kroger locations and one Jungle Jim’s and brought to the Newtown location,” says Kerr. She adds that other perishable food items are dropped off by a growing number of local farmers, special event coordinators, bakers, and other producers.
All of the perishable items that are brought into La Soupe are accepted by La Soupe staff and volunteers, who then organize and weigh those donations.
“In 2016, these sources provided over 125,000 pounds of rescued food, saving 270-cubic-yards of landfill space,” says Kerr.
Based on the food that is made available in each week’s rescue, daily soupe production varies. However, to add production capacity and engage Cincinnati’s restaurant community, La Soupe initiated a Bucket Brigade of local chefs to accept a portion of rescued food to transform in their kitchens.
Approximately 15 percent of the food that is rescued is resold through two retail channels, at La Soupe’s Newtown walk-up counter, open Tuesday through Saturday, and through a limited sandwich, beverage, and dessert menu.
“The bulk of soupe production, plus other perishable foods, are donated through both a network of 27 organizations feeding the food insecure and directly through relationships with Cincinnati Public Schools,” says Kerr.
Through these networks in the community, La Soupe is able to bring together the entire chef community in order to help feed the hungry. With more than 15 Bucket Brigade chefs from restaurants including Salazar, Maribelle’s, E+O Kitchen, We Olive, Orchids, and more, La Soupe is the only organization using such a concept in the entire country. “These chefs have helped us donate over 95,000 servings of food,” she says.
Currently, La Soupe operates out of a 900-square-foot building that they are quickly outgrowing. “We plan to build an expansion onto our current location, which we estimate will double our rescue and share capacity,” says Kerr.
Plans for the expansion include a storage and kitchen prep area as well as an additional walk-in freezer/refrigerator, which will hopefully become the donation area. The La Soupe team also hopes to reconsilidate soupe production, moving it from its current storage location at Miami Valley Christian Academy. “To this point, we have a grant for the walk-in freezer and we are fundraising to raise the rest of the $200,000,” adds Kerr.
To learn more about La Soupe, check out their daily updates on Facebook. You can also sign up as a volunteer to learn more about donating to La Soupe’s expansion project at http://lasoupecincinnati.com/home.