Soup and Bread has more than doubled its average weekly attendance since last year, increasing from between 60 and 70 students a week to between 120 and 150, and is looking to grow further still.
“We’re hoping to keep bumping up our average,” said Soup and Bread Coordinator Hannah Redding ’15. “We’re really hoping to get our numbers up high enough, so that potentially we could have a Soup and Bread dinner and lunch every week and raise more money that way.”
Soup and Bread, a program that has existed in various forms for more than 20 years, allows students to use a portion of their meal swipes to contribute to organizations that work to feed the hungry. Each swipe at Soup and Bread is worth five dollars, and roughly half the money goes to charity. At the end of the year, the interns vote to choose one local, one national and one international group between which they will divide the proceeds.
Although Dining Services staff in Lowry prepares the food for Soup and Bread, student volunteers keep the soup stocked and clean up afterwards. Volunteers are recruited through tabling at Scot Spirit Day and contacting student organizations, especially Greek groups looking to fulfill their service requirement.
“Dining Services and our student volunteers make it very easy and fun for members of our campus community to give a little bit back to those who struggle to simply eat well,” said Linda Morgan-Clement, the Henry Copeland Chaplain and Director of Interfaith Campus Ministry, who also oversees the Soup and Bread program. “For students who eat very well and exercise incredible dining choices, we hope that Soup and Bread can be a choice that they make to make our community a better place, as they eat simply once a week — so that others may simply eat.”
Part of Soup and Bread’s recent growth is due to its decision to hire a third intern to help with administrative tasks. Redding’s fellow interns are Alyssa Gilbert ’15 and Kate Redding ’16, Hannah’s sister.
“I think the reason [for the increase in popularity] is this year we decided to hire an extra intern, so that way we’d have more people staffed to do advertising and things like that,” said Hannah Redding. “It’s so much work to run Soup and Bread and coordinate all the volunteers and do advertising for it and come up with themes and things like that. Now having one extra intern makes the work so much more manageable.”
Soup and Bread has also been in the process of increasing its advertising outreach. One recent change includes the addition of t-shirt giveaways, and a number of other strides are being made to attract more students.
“Now we make sure to put Facebook ads up, Pot ads [and] WHN ads every week,” said Redding. “We’re going to this week be making posters. We’re doing the t-shirt giveaways. We’re trying to come up with themes for certain weeks … I think the advertising has been helping a lot.”
The aim is to increase interest to the degree where it would be possible to have more than one meal per week. To do so, Soup and Bread would need to have about 200 attendees on a consistent basis.
“It’s just such a cool program that’s so original to Wooster that it would be really cool if we couldn’t make it more well known and just more popular,” said Redding. “I just think it’s a lot nicer to be able to give a bigger donation away at the end of the year.”
If attendance keeps rising at the current rate, this is a feasible goal.
“We will still not be at the point where we were 10 years ago — where there were two meals a week and we raised over $12,000 each year for hunger causes,” said Morgan-Clement. “But for the current context, I believe that we are moving forward and making an impact.”