What 2001) He eventually became known as the

What
is a Soup Kitchen?

            Soup
Kitchens serve free meals to hungry men, women and children.  They are sometimes ran by part-time employees
and volunteers.  Money for food and space
for people to eat, is what is needed to run a soup kitchen.  People and charitable organizations raise
money or donate money and food. Some people donate crops from charity gardens,
where they plant fruits and vegetables just for the soup kitchens.

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History
of the Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens in America started around 1929 because of the
Great Depression.  (“Depression-era”)  They were ran by local churches and private
charities. Volunteers and in some cases, a few part time employees helped cook
and serve the food. The need for more soup kitchens increased in 1932 when 12
million Americans, about 25 percent of the work force, became unemployed and
there was no assistance from the government. 
(“Depression-era”)

President Hoover believed in “rugged individualism, which stated that every man should fend for
themselves” (“Soup Kitchens and…”, 2001) and government handouts did more
damage than good, especially when it came to people’s self-esteem. Therefore,
there were no welfare or relief programs, like in the United Kingdom in 1847.  (“Soup Kitchens and…”, 2001)  Soup kitchens were the best way to feed the needy,
unemployed and homeless. As the Great Depression progressed and the number of
hungry people continued to increase, President Hoover changed his way of
thinking and authorized 4 million dollars for the states to open more soup
kitchens.

In 1931, Al Capone, a well-known gangster established the
first soup kitchen in Chicago. Al Capone used the money from his crimes, like
drug dealing and boot legging, to fund multiple locations.  (“Soup Kitchens and…”, 2001) He eventually
became known as the modern-day Robin Hood. 
People often said he was doing more than the government was at the
time.  Newspaper headlines read, “120,000
meals are served by Capone’s Free Soup Kitchen”.  On Thanksgiving in 1931, he provided over
5,000 meals in 1 day to hungry individuals and starving families (“Soup
Kitchens and…”, 2001).  Although, Capone
had initially done this to clean up his image, in an interview he said, “Providing
jobs or food for those less fortunate warms my heart a little.”

Psychology
and Stigmas

Being poor comes with a stigma, the way people think about
you.  Poverty comes with the feelings
from others that those that are poor may also be lazy and incompetent.  (Herbert, 2013)  Research from the university case study below
demonstrated that the poor can’t make the best decisions for themselves.  The truth is that the poor tend to make bad
choices because poverty affects how one makes decisions.  Good decisions require attention, reasoning,
and mental ability.  “Poverty reduces basic mental resources
leaving little brain power for sound reasoning.” (Herbert, 2013) 

Oxytocin is a chemical that is released into our brains when
we make personal connections and engage in meaningful conversation.  (“Sacramento Homeless”, 2012)  While cortisol, which is also known as the
stress hormone, is released when we feel threatened, scared, or stressed.  (“How Brain Chemicals Influence Mood…, 2016)  When there is too much cortisol, the brain
loses its ability to think on its own and make good decisions. 

Crystal Hall of the University of Washington, Jiaying Zhao of
the University of British Columbia, and El Dar Shafire of Princeton University
conducted research that suggested that self-affirmation or high self-value,
will feed more oxytocin to the brain allowing those affected by poverty and
hunger to make better judgements and decisions. (Herbert, 2013)  The interesting part about this study is that
wealthy people did not show a benefit from self-affirmation. This process only
benefited those living in poverty.  Those
who had affirmed their personal value made better decisions. 

Positivity
in our Communities

Soup kitchens still exist today for the homeless and
struggling families of America. They affect our communities, as well as the
people in them positively.  Its effects
on those living throughout the Great Depression were evident, even changing
President Hoover’s mind about poverty and people.  Hundreds of thousands were served just in Al
Capone’s Soup Kitchens, but millions found their next meal throughout.  They can help the mindset of the poor, help
to remove the stigma and provide opportunities for growth.  My experience at a soup kitchen was amazing, I
served the people breakfast, cleaned up after them and it felt good to help the
hungry families out there. The soup kitchen had places where people could get
food, shoes and clothes.  What I found
interesting was, that a lot of the people I served, just wanted someone to talk
to and I was willing to listen.

Staying mentally strong
and being a part of something positive is a benefit to all people in our
community, whether they are rich or poor. 
Soup kitchens can feed the body and soul of the rich, poor, and the
lonely.

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