Life & English: Soup Kitchen

A Soup Kitchen is a place where food is offered usually for free or sometimes at a below market price. Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, soup kitchens are often staffed by volunteer organizations, such as church or community groups.

Soup kitchens sometimes obtain food from a food bank for free or at a low price, because they are considered a charity, which makes it easier for them to feed the many people who require their services. Many historical and some modern soup kitchens serve only soup (hence its name) with perhaps some bread. But several establishments which title themselves as a "soup kitchen" also serve other types of food, so social scientists sometimes discuss them together with similar hunger relief agencies that provide more varied hot meals, like food kitchens and meal centers. Therefore, other names of soup kitchen can be Meal Center or Food Kitchen.

Mr. Barak Obama and his daughter in a soup kitchen

The first soup kitchens in the modern sense may have emerged in the late 18th century while society organizations were using various methods to share food with the hungry poor people. By the late 19th century, they were to be found in several American and European cities. In the United States and elsewhere, they became more prominent in the 20th century during the Great Depression from 1929 to 1939. With the improved economic conditions after World War II, soup kitchens became less widely used, at least in the advanced economies. In the 21st century, the use of soup kitchens expanded in both the United States and Europe, following lasting global increases in the price of food which began in late 2006. Demand for their services grew as the Great Recession began to worsen economic conditions for those on low income. In much of Europe, demand further increased after the introduction of austerity-based economic policies from 2010.

We visited a soup kitchen, met volunteers and their poor guests in a dinner. It was a warm dinner. Many poor guests were homeless. The soup kitchen supported them in their hard days. In the soup kitchen, the warm dinners were more meaning than food or money. The poor people were servered warm meals by warm hearts of volunteers. This was very good encouragement for poor people to overcome difficulty, to get the better life.

Quy Minh

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