Hero Chef ‘Rescues’ Food, Enlists Volunteer Network to Feed the Hungry

Can soup save the world? Maybe not, but in Cincinnati, one determined chef is using it to save people from going to bed hungry.

Suzy DeYoung was flabbergasted by the wasted food she saw at restaurants and grocery stores. She was also angered by the “ridiculous amount of hunger” in the Cincinnati area. She decided she could — and had to — do something about both problems. What she did is extraordinary.

DeYoung runs the non-profit La Soupe, what she calls a “French roadside soup shack.” It’s a restaurant with perhaps the most important mission there is. La Soupe provides free soup meals to the disadvantaged and “food-insecure” who live in the Greater Cincinnati area.

staff from la soupe

Photo credit: La Soupe Facebook page

That’s a daunting undertaking, but DeYoung took it on with enthusiasm. She convinced produce managers at organic farms and local grocery stores like Kroger and Jungle Jim’s to give her the vegetables they can’t sell. A lot of that produce is perfectly good, but past its shelf life for consumers. Most of it ended up in the garbage until DeYoung came along.

“We’re the last stop,” DeYoung told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If it hits us and it’s usable, we use it.”

Use it she does — up to an incredible 4,000 pounds of produce per month. Turning it all into soup is a huge effort. Fortunately, DeYoung doesn’t have to do it alone. For a project this big, she needed a lot of help. One by one, she convinced more than 20 top chefs from around the Cincinnati area to volunteer their time.

Watch a video report about DeYoung and her work at La Soupe here:

The chefs use overage foods from their own restaurants or take La Soupe’s rescued produce into their kitchens. This “Bucket Brigade” of chefs chops and cooks, turning those ingredients into wondrous, creative soups, stews and gumbos.

Volunteers ladle the soup into containers, freeze it, and transport it to where it will do the most good. The type of produce that rolls in on any given day determines what meals the Bucket Brigade chefs can make. Whatever it turns out to be, it’s always good.

Volunteer runners deliver rescued produce to the Bucket Brigade chefs and drive the frozen soup containers to schools, after-school programs, churches and feeding centers for the homeless and disadvantaged around Cincinnati every week. Orchestrating all this effort is no small task.

If the brigade just can’t use some of the donated produce, it becomes compost or food for a local pig farm. In the end, all that food gets used. It’s not garbage anymore.

DeYoung also believes deeply in the power of education. She believes hungry kids can’t effectively learn. Few among us would doubt she’s 100 percent correct about that. Kids need to eat.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” she told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “So if we start with food – the basic necessity of food – the schools have a better chance of doing their job.”

La Soupe and produce

All this produce could have been destined for a dumpster. Photo credit: La Soupe Facebook page

To that end, DeYoung spends time each week hosting cooking classes for “food-insecure” school kids at several schools. In her classes, students learn how to make and eat healthy foods. Best of all, they can take home the meals they cook.

“For them, it’s just a way they can help support their family,” DeYoung told WCPO News. “Has it been fun to watch them develop? Unbelievable.”

Every week, an army of Cincinnati volunteers feeds hundreds of people who might otherwise not eat. Hunger never ends, but this band of caring people keeps slugging away at the problem, making a real difference. You can help them, too. La Soupe is open for business as a restaurant and sales go toward sustaining the soup project. Additionally, La Soupe is always looking for more runners. Those who don’t live near Cincinnati can help in other ways.

Imagine “rescuing” food on this level in every city around the country. Imagine feeding hungry people — little kids, lonely seniors, underfed families — with all that food. It would be revolutionary. It would be awesome. Why aren’t we doing this everywhere?

Suzy DeYoung didn’t shrug and ask why someone wasn’t doing something about hunger and wasted food. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work addressing both problems. The Bucket Brigade chefs and La Soupe volunteers likewise step up every single week to help our fellow humans live better lives.

We need more of this kind of activism in the world. We need so much more of this kind of love.

Photo credit: La Soupe Facebook page

137 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S4 months ago

Thanks.

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Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

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Leong S
Leong S1 years ago

ty

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Larry McDaniel
Larry McDaniel2 years ago

Thank you Suzy DeYoung.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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