According to Matthew 5:7, mercy is an investment: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The initial investment was given to us when we were saved from the eternal consequences of our sin. Let’s not bury what we have been given but rather seek opportunities to invest.
One of the most fundamental exercises in mercy is feeding the poor. Starting a soup kitchen is a direct approach to connect us with those who physically hunger and give us the opportunity to address their spiritual hunger as well.
Here are 7 steps to follow when starting a soup kitchen in your church or community:
How to Start a Soup Kitchen in Your Church/Community
1. Paper work
Register your new charitable organization with your state and incorporate as a nonprofit organization. This will not only ensure things are legal, but will give your organization exemption from federal tax. Requirements will vary from state to state, so do your homework. Even federal requirements vary based on the specific details of your organization so you will need to contact the IRS. Remember, tax exemption does not excuse an organization from maintaining proper and accurate records.
2. Raise funds
There is funding available through various private and corporate organizations as well as government agencies. Start with your local church. Put together a presentation reviewing the needs that you see in a particular area and how you believe a soup kitchen would benefit the people there.
You may also be able to acquire funds by securing a government or corporate grant. There are plenty of resources to consult regarding grant writing online, at your local library or in bookstores. The simple gist of writing a grant proposal is to present the problem then propose a solution.
3. Find a location
Once you have determined the region where the need exists, try to find a facility close by. Contact churches and community organizations in your target area to see if they have a facility you can use/rent. Make sure the particular facility you are considering has space enough to store the food you receive. Research the area, familiarize yourself with the community and find out if other organizations who feed the poor are already there. It may be that you can join up in a collaborative effort and join forces with an existing outreach.
4. Press Releases
You will want to get the word out about your new organization. It is also important to continue to inform the public concerning fundraising events, accomplishments, productivity, and organizational changes.
Local newspapers and television stations are the most obvious resources at your disposal. Less obvious tools are: bloggers and other online journalists (there are free release distribution services such as PRLog.org, to help with this); high school and college alumni publications; fellow bloggers; and other local charities (who often promote each other). It is also a good idea to include your press release on your own website if you have one.
5. Acquire food and donations
Here is where volunteers are most needed. Collecting food to run a soup kitchen for even one day is no easy task. A good first step is to locate and apply to receive support from a local food bank (there are various locators online). Check with grocery stores and restaurants to see if they will donate expired, damaged and excess food. A food drive event is also an excellent idea.
6. Recruit volunteers
Volunteers are an essential piece of the puzzle for a successful soup kitchen. There are countless opportunities for volunteers to serve, such as: picking up the food, preparing to serve, fundraising, communicating to the public, and a thousand other administrative tasks. Collaborating with other existing organizations is another valuable task that can be accomplished by volunteers.
7. Service with a smile
Surround yourself and the organization with people who love the Lord and love to serve others. Choose workers who are filled with joy and see the validity and benefit of your efforts. Everyone involved should pray for the outreach, for the people you serve and for each other.
We should all be mindful that when we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus. Considering all He has done for us, we should be joyful in our service to Him.