Feed'em Soup Fueling Expansion With Late Night Meals

Dec 12, 2012

Credit WNIJ
The space where Feed'em Soup serves many of its meals. Here it's set up for use by the building's co-tenant, The Church in DeKalb.
Credit WNIJ

Feed'em Soup Executive Chef Alex Smith
Credit WNIJ
Feed'em Soup Executive Director Derek Gibbs
Credit WNIJ
Feed'em Soup volunteer Isaac Truckenbrod
Credit WNIJ
Feed'em Soup Board member Jennifer Yochem
Credit WNIJ

A DeKalb organization that provides meals to those in need is looking to expand in 2013. To pay for that, the Feed’em Soup community project has started a late night food service.

Standing in the 1,800-square-foot kitchen in the building on the edge of downtown DeKalb the group uses to provide community meals, Feed’em Soup Executive Chef Alex Smith says he can put four to five hundred plates of food out in a two hour period, something he’s had to do a couple of times this year.  That’s a big jump from the fifty or so served when Feed’em Soup started three years ago, with the mission of providing nutritious cuisine in a restaurant quality environment to anyone - regardless of their situation.

Volunteer Isaac Truckenbrod currently serves as dining room manager during the meals.  He says some nights they have to have a host seat people, because there’s not enough room to accommodate everyone at once.  He says serving that many people can be a strain, but it’s worth it.

Especially when I get to interact with the people in need personally, and I get to send someone home with some food that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford, and just seeing the look of gratitude.

Feed’em Soup Executive Director Derek Gibbs says the phenomenal growth seems to be continuing.

Every meal we get to meet new people who hadn’t heard of us before and someone in the community told them about us, and they’re in a bad place in their life so they need our services. Just recently we had a man who hadn’t eaten anything in couple of days.

Gibbs says that’s why, come January, the organization will expand its dinners from twice monthly to once a week.  Gibbs says, long term, he’d like to do more.

We constantly wonder, what are these people doing when we’re not open.  We want to be here every day so that anybody can come in and have a warm meal that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jennifer Yochem agrees with that sentiment.  Yochem is a new member of Feed’em Soup’s board.  She joined because in her position as admissions manager at the DeKalb County Housing Authority, she’d seen the need for the community meals.

I have the pleasure of helping people find homes. But I also I’m privy to the amount of money they receive in food stamps. It’s not adequate. It’s simply not adequate, and Feed’em Soup can help them. 


But with expansion comes greater expenses, and Chef Alex Smith says the group was looking to go beyond the usual fundraising events. 

The community has been great and supported us and given us what we need to keep going, but none of that is necessarily reliable, it’s  just, we hope people will keep giving us money.  

So, in order to raise money on a regular basis, Smith says Feed’em Soup is doing what it calls “After Dark,” a continuing fundraiser that runs from 9 PM to 3 AM every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

It’s sort of an American tapas late night diner kind of a feel, we’ll have   little cheeseburgers, little chicken sandwiches, everything’s a dollar or two dollars. Some breakfast stuff, a little waffle, a little pancakes.

Gibbs says the hope is that a steady stream of revenue will help build a financial cushion for expansion, or if other sources fall short.

Gibbs says that will be especially important next year because, even as the project expands its services, another set of new expenses looms.  Feed’em Soup’s co-tenant in the building, the Church in DeKalb, is moving to another location.  That means Feed’em Soup will become solely responsible for the rent and utilities they currently split with the Church.  Gibbs says that will be a challenge, but also an opportunity:  it means being able to host more events at the site, to raise money and serve the community.

For Gibbs and the others at Feed’em Soup, it also means getting closer to their  dream of providing a hot meal to anyone, anytime they need it.