Within a one-mile radius of the West Side Market there are about a dozen soup kitchens that attempt to fill the nutritional needs of countless poor and homeless people.
Within that same geographical area are numerous restaurants, caterers and market vendors with excess product that don’t have the time, staff or knowhow to get the food into the right hands.
A new non-profit organization aims to provide that crucial link between that food and the people who need it most. Founded by chef, restaurateur and educator Giovanna Mingrone, Stone Soup CLE helps to feed Cleveland’s hungry while reducing waste and providing nutrition, support, dignity and a sense of community.
“We named our organization Stone Soup CLE after a folktale that reflects cooperation, especially in scarcity,” Mingrone explains. “If we can bring together those who want to help with those needing help, we can address our city’s ongoing hunger issues, including food insecurity. More people, especially children and the elderly, will have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.”
Mingrone estimates that area soup kitchens at places like St. Malachi, St. Augustines and St. Paul's Community Outreach serve nearly 20,000 meals each month. Meanwhile local restaurants, caterers, market vendors, produce companies and grocery stores routinely throw away food because they don’t know what to do with it.
Since its first delivery in October, Stone Soup CLE has rescued more than 1,000 pounds of food, provided more than 400 meals and delivered more than 300 pounds of ready-to-use produce and meal components to five soup kitchens. Food that is not used is composted.
“We deliver some things as is: chopped salad greens, chopped carrots… Some things we turn into dishes,” says Mingrone. “I got a case of green papaya. No one knows what to do with that, so I made soup!”
Mingrone says that she hasn’t even begun to tap into the potential that still exists in her own small neighborhood. Limited by the size of her facility, she says that Stone Soup is actively raising funds to secure a kitchen facility and purchase a few small appliances.
“We haven't even begun with restaurants yet because the 300-400 pounds of produce per week is keeping us busy – and we need more space. But we wouldn't turn down a donation!!”
To that end, Stone Soup is accepting monetary donations via a GoFundMe site here.
“The support from our community, from vendors and from other not-for-profit organizations has been overwhelming,” Mingrone says. “We are setting the stage in Cleveland for what could become a national partnership model between suppliers and the people who most need nutritious food.”
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