Fairbanks soup kitchen sees increased need for services during COVID-19 pandemic
Stone Soup Café, a soup kitchen near downtown Fairbanks, has seen an increase in demand for its services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The kitchen, run by Bread Line, Incorporated, has adapted its services to respond to the pandemic and ensure social distancing. There is no longer self-service of any kind. The soup kitchen now serves a hot breakfast, a cold lunch meal and a hot dinner entrée at the same time. According to Bread Line Executive Director Hannah Hill, this means that the amount of food served to each person has increased as well as the total amount being prepared during the day.
“We’ve really settled into a good pattern here,” they said, adding, “It was something of a learning curve.”
On Monday, May 25th, Stone Soup served 96 hot entrees and 119 sack lunches.
The summer months are traditionally the kitchen’s busiest season. Hill is concerned that the high numbers being seen this early in the season indicate a heavy volume of summer demand. “As we are already serving more people than ever before, and we are not even at the beginning of our busy season, we are concerned about what that means for us,” they said.
Hill also said Stone Soup is seeing new faces, those who have not utilized the kitchen before. Including younger patrons and those who are recently unemployed. “We’re beginning to see the impacts of the economic issues that we’re having right now,” they said.
According to Hill, one function of the soup kitchen is to provide services regardless of the sobriety of clients. They said, “A fair deal of the folks that we do serve here have addiction issues that can mean that they can’t get service other places, so we’re able to fill in that gap there by having this just be, ‘Anybody can come here.’ “.
Hill is motivated by the harsh toll the pandemic, both economically and health-wise, is taking on at-risk populations. “Folks that were already marginalized where they were at with their incomes, they’re the first ones that start falling through the cracks,” they said.
To respond to the pandemic, Bread Line partnered up with Fairbanks Mask Makers and the Tanana Chiefs Conference, who have provided the organization with masks to hand out to clients who request them.
Hill said Stone Soup Café is always looking for volunteers, especially in the mornings, when food is being handed out. Food donations are also a valuable staple of the kitchen’s functioning. Another way people at home can help out is to bake cookies, which the kitchen is happy to distribute.