MURRAY – Soup for the Soul has opened a new community refrigerator and pantry at its South Fifth Street headquarters in downtown Murray, allowing people to drop off or pick up non-perishable and refrigerated foods any time of the day .
Soup for the Soul board member Erika Mehta said the idea for the community refrigerator was inspired by the blessing boxes that were set up by various organizations in Murray and Calloway County in over the past two years. Although traditionally these are small wooden boxes that can hold canned goods and other non-perishable foods, she said this may limit what they can provide to families in the insecure community a bit. food.
“During the pandemic, when we had to stop allowing volunteers to come in to protect the soup kitchen operations, I started working here regularly with (Kitchen Manager David Morgan) and (Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Olivia Robison), ”Mehta said. “I began to see not only the need and the number of meals increase at the soup kitchen, but in my involvement with my own blessing box at the church and seeing them in the city, I noticed that the blessing boxes were emptied and filled and emptied and filled, and our number of meals increased.
“We had people come over and said, ‘How can I help? And people bringing us food that we really couldn’t use to cook meals in the kitchen, but didn’t want to throw out. And I thought, “What if we had a blessing box that was a refrigerator?” I kept thinking, then thought it was just a perfect extension of our soup kitchen mission.
Mehta said volunteer Cole Riley – whose parents, Roy and Jennifer Riley, have been involved with the organization since its inception several years ago – who built the box that houses the refrigerator and pantry. Meanwhile, Charles Taylor offered to pay for the refrigerator and equipment.
“I helped out for a couple years at the soup kitchen,” Riley said. “Mom was involved in it, so I wanted to help do my part.”
Taylor said he was always happy to help when Debbie Smith, founder of Soup for the Soul, asked him to.
“Every time Debbie asks me for something, I try to make her happy!” Taylor said.
“I asked them a little, and they did a lot,” Smith said with a smile.
Debi Henry Danielson, executive director of the Murray Art Guild, and Zach Byrd volunteered to paint the wooden pantry with blue skies and clouds.
“Erika reached out to me to get involved, and when it comes to the arts guild, we like to support other nonprofits in the community and get involved in any way we can,” Danielson said. “And I knew Zach had helped with Soup for the Soul in the past as a waiter.”
“Yes, we served and prepared food with the First Presbyterian Church, and we donated food from Murray State when I was working there,” Byrd added, “I was a chef there. always been involved with Soup for the Soul and always wanted to do a lot more than I could. ”
“I knew Zach wanted to do more, so when I needed someone to help me, I called him,” Danielson said.
The refrigerator / pantry is located on the sidewalk just outside the Soup for the Soul head office. Mehta said that because it’s right outside the soup kitchen, volunteer teams can check it every day as part of their duties to make sure everything in the fridge and on the shelves is safe and healthy, as well as to ensure that the refrigerator is clean.
“The inventory is done on its own,” Mehta said. “We have a lot of community members who want to come and donate, and so if it’s non-perishable, they stick it on the shelves, and if it’s perishable, they put it in the refrigerator (inside). Then, food insecure community members can come anytime, not just when the soup kitchen is open, and get what they need. We only serve Monday to Friday so there is a little void in town, especially on Saturdays when there is no option to just come and eat something. So that really fills that gap, and it’s not really an additional burden on anyone because we all share the responsibility. Olivia said it was going well.
Danielson said that due to her schedule and the downtown South Fifth Street Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, Sunday morning is the best time to paint. She said it gave her the opportunity to see with her own eyes how much the refrigerator and pantry are already appreciated by the community. Danielson said it was an ideal location as it is easily accessible via the Murray-Calloway Transit Authority, and anyone living in the city can walk or cycle there.
“I know on Sunday morning when I came here people came and used it,” Danielson said. “They are very grateful and always curious to see what is there. I enjoyed chatting with some people and they really encouraged me to paint!
“Having the cold storage option gives you a whole other outlet for available products that you don’t typically get, like fresh vegetables, protein, and meats,” Byrd added.
Smith said she also appreciated the support from employees at local dairy farmer Saputo, which is located nearby.
“Saputo has products that are about to expire but haven’t expired yet, and some of their employees have filled the fridge with cottage cheese, milk, whipped cream and other things that are sort of a luxury that was wasted. Smith said. “So he’s doing a lot more than he expected.”
“I really hope this inspires other organizations and the region,” Mehta said. “Maybe some local churches could set up one in front of their property or in a place in the county where people might not be able to access it. When a lot of people are helping, it’s not that big of a deal. So I’m very excited about it.