Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives. For those who have lost jobs or had other financial hardships, it can be difficult to afford food for each meal of the day.
In Franklin County, Stone Soup Café is fighting food insecurity each Saturday by offering a restaurant-quality meal at a “pay what you can” price.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visited the café recently to see how Stone Soup offers meals to those in need.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives. For those who have lost jobs or had other financial hardships, it can be difficult to afford food for each meal of the day.
In Franklin County, Stone Soup Café is helping those with food insecurity each Saturday by offering a restaurant-quality meal at a pay-what-you-can price. Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visited the cafe recently to see how Stone Soup offers meals to those in need.
Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: It’s the last weekend in February and it’s snowing again. But come rain, sleet, or any weather of any kind,at Stone Soup Café in Greenfield on Saturdays, you can find Kirsten Levitt.
Kirsten Levitt, Stone Soup Café: Yes, boiling!
Ross Lippman: In the kitchen, making lunch.
Kirsten Levitt: Everything here is like a dance.
Ross Lippman: Levitt is executive director and head chef.
Kirsten Levitt: Send me people that are ready to like, do chopping of the mushrooms because I want that liquid, too.
Ross Lippman: Of the pay-what-you-can style restaurant situated inside the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.
Kirsten Levitt: We’re not a soup kitchen, this is a meal for everybody. We believe that everybody should access the meal, and those who can pay should, if they can. And, those who can’t are welcome to partake of delicious restaurant-quality food.
Ross Lippman: On this particular Saturday, where the menu celebrates the Lunar New Year.
Kirsten Levitt: I’m here alone because I’ve sent everybody out there
Ross Lippman: Is the café’s busiest and most popular.
Kirsten Levitt: Today, we’re going to do close to five hundred.
Ross Lippman: With 500 meals to serve, the clock is always ticking.
Kirsten Levitt: We’ll add all of the stir-fry vegetables to this.
Ross Lippman: And Levitt’s team of volunteers are moving fast.
Jansyn Thaw, Stone Soup Café: There’s like a big hustle that starts all at once and everyone kind of snaps into action.
Ross Lippman: Stone Soup Café certainly isn’t immune to the financial repercussions of the pandemic. As restaurants across the country close either permanently or temporarily, this pay-what-you-can café has found a way to stay open, and it’s more important now than ever.
With food insecurity increasing, they’re able to serve residents here in Greenfield and in the surrounding towns across Franklin County.
Kirsten Levitt: We pivoted very quickly. We immediately responded to the community’s needs. People saw us step up and respond. And that was a really big deal.
Ross Lippman: Big enough that between various COVID relief grants and community donations, Stone Soup has kept up as the cafe’s budget doubled to a quarter million dollars within the last year.
But every dollar goes back into the food for more vegetables, more noodles, and more to-go boxes.
Stone Soup Café Volunteer: Is the first tray going over to Lisa?
Ross Lippman: The pandemic forcing the café to rethink how it serves its growing lines, now waiting outside.
Jansyn Thaw: This process, there’s about seven people on the line, and we have two people packing meals, two people handing out meals. And we have four people on the line taking orders.
Stone Soup Café Volunteer: You want some uh, cereal to go?
Ross Lippman: The café also runs a food pantry, which is stocked weekly.
Stone Soup Café Volunteer: Excellent. Yeah, nice to see you!
Ross Lippman: No one leaves without a meal, even when they can’t be found.
Stone Soup Café Volunteer: So looking for Jonathan, did did we see where he ran off to? He’s usually waiting across the street.
Ross Lippman: And if you can’t come to the café, the café will come to you. Volunteers like Shannon Prescott and her daughters, Layla and Amelia, are piloting Stone Soup’s new delivery service.
Shannon Prescott, Stone Soup Café: Stone Soup!
Delivery Recipient: Oh, uh thank you!
Shannon Prescott: You’re welcome, enjoy!
Kirsten Levitt: When the pandemic hit, the very first thing we knew was that people needed delivered meals. So we opened up that whole new program.
Ross Lippman: As Stone Soup continues to adapt to life during and after COVID, Levitt says they’re now thinking long-term.
Kirsten Levitt: So, that’s going to be for soup.
Ross Lippman: She doesn’t see the demand for meals going down anytime soon.
Kirsten Levitt: In rural Franklin County, the economic hit from all of the unemployment, from the changes that the pandemic wrought, the recovery from that will take longer.