Community Supported Soup

Community Supported Soup

My last post, 2016 Election – Food for Thought, talked about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the GOP’s platform to uncouple it from the Farm Bill and block grant it to death. With a Republican majority in both houses and a Republican president, it’s quite possible this will come to pass, hence Community Supported Soup.

I’ve done a little digging into the program. During the 20 years from 1982 to 2001, an average of twenty-one and a half million people utilized SNAP each year. From 2002 to 2008 the average inched up to about twenty-four and a half million.

Since then, the number of people relying on SNAP has ballooned. It peaked in 2013 at nearly forty-eight million people needing assistance. Thankfully, the trend line is going down with forty-four million Americans receiving food assistance. Yet, twice as many people need snap than they did twenty years ago. 

Data from USDA. 

We are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession. It crashed both coasts like a hurricane whipped tidal surge in November. A lot of us are overwhelmed. Big, intractable problems paralyze us – just ask the ninety million people who Did Not Vote. 

If “Did Not Vote” Had Been A Candidate In The 2016 US Presidential Election, It Would Have Won By a Landslide. 

Map courtesy of Brilliant Maps.

Small questions

Over the past month I’ve been reading and reflecting. I’ve been reading Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. To avoid the paralysis that we often feel when dealing with a Big Problem, their advice is to ask small questions.


  1. Small questions are by their very nature less often asked and investigated, and maybe not at all. They are virgin territory for true learning. 
  2. Since big problems are usually a dense mass of intertwined small problems, you can make more progress by tackling a small piece of a big problem than by flailing away at grand solutions.
  3. Any kind of change is hard, but the chances of triggering a change on a small problem are much greater than on a bigger one.
  4. Thinking big is, by definition, an exercise in imprecision or even speculation. When you think small, the stakes may be diminished but you can be relatively sure you know what you’re talking about.

I’m taking this to heart when it comes to hunger and the SNAP program. Rather than ask “How can we solve hunger in America?” or even “What can we do to preserve the SNAP program?” We’re asking, “Can we do something to address hunger in our community?”

Next week, we will guest chef at Soup and Bread, Chicago for the eighth straight year. This year’s Soup and Bread theme is “sanctuary” soup. We’re debating between chicken noodle and chili this year – both are comfort food at our house. Inspired by Martha Bayne’s success with Soup and Bread over the past 8 years (Over $60,000 has gone to Chicago food pantries), we are going to bring Community Supported Soup our CSA communities.

On January 20th, we’ll host our first soup event at Jeremiah Joe Coffee in Ottawa, our home town. Katie Belle and the Belle Rangers (KBBR) will play for the Ottawa event. On February 9th, we’ll take our crock pots on the road to Temperance Tap in Evanston. An event at Kinslahger in Oak Park is in the planning stage. We’ll take a break over the spring and summer (our busiest time of year), and resume the effort in fall. Our BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal, (thanks to our friend Kristi of Rainbow Confections for the term and idea) is to raise $2,500 in 2017. 

We, also, adhere to the maxim that Many hands make light work. So…we’re asking for your help.

  1. Would you like to be a guest chef?
  2. Would you help set up before or clean up afterward?
  3. Can you help publicize/promote the events? Will you bring your friends to enjoy soup and community?
  4. Would you like to donate musical or other talents?
  5. Would you like to organize future events?

Other small question that thinking about and planning these events has brought up include: 

“What will we learn that is true?”

“What conversations will we have over our bowls of soup?”

“What will happen after we’ve come together do good for our communities?” 

I suspect that the answer to the last is Good things. Good things that might just bring us closer to solving the bigger problems. 

What do you think?

Are you with me?!

Ottawa Soup Update:




















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