“What does a soup kitchen do in the middle of a pandemic when gathering for a meal is not safe or permitted?” asked Steve Greenfield, vice president of the Baldwin Civic Association. He volunteers with the Soup to Nuts Soup Kitchen housed in Christ Lutheran Church in Freeport.
In reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, volunteers have adjusted the pantry’s operations over the past year. The facility closed last April and reopened in June.
Soup to Nuts used to operate five days a week, but is now open only three days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Bagged, to-go-style lunches are handed out by volunteers outside the church from noon to 1 p.m., and on Wednesdays, cooks prepare hot meals.
Bagged lunches include sandwiches, pizza slices, fruit, doughnuts and any other food items that are donated that week. Additionally, volunteers set up tables outside in an area resembling a supermarket to allow guests to take grocery items that they may need.
Island Harvest provides boxes of food in addition to donations from local shops, including Bagel Boss in Baldwin, Trader Joe’s in Merrick, Fehn’s Cake and Cookie Shop in Seaford, Gala Foods Supermarket in Freeport, Edible Arrangements in Bellmore and Associated Supermarket in Rockville Centre.
Local churches, schools, Girl and Boy Scout troops, and individuals also donate what they can to the community.
“Before, these tables all were set, people were coming, taking and eating, and they were socializing until 1 o’clock,” said volunteer and coordinator Armineh Sevadjian, of Wantagh, who has worked with the pantry for about eight years. “Then we say, ‘OK, it’s time to go, we have to clean up.’”
She and fellow volunteer Barbara Curreri, of Freeport, who has also worked with the pantry for about eight years, explained how, before the pandemic, trays of hot food were put out and guests were offered “seven-course meals.”
Curreri said she hopes to restart the in-person dining experience in the fall, if it’s safe. “All of the funds and goods contributed go entirely to community residents in need,” Greenfield said, adding that the guests include low-income families, day laborers, homeless people and anyone else who shows up.
About 15 volunteers — the kitchen is completely staffed by volunteers — come in on a given day to help out.
“We are doing the absolute best we can, and the guests are as grateful and as polite as can be,” coordinator Marian Hart said. “And we get special donations like adult diapers . . . We are happy with all the special donations because it tells the guests that people are thinking about them, and whatever people can do, they’re trying to help us where they can, how they can.”
Greenfield added that the soup kitchen could use more volunteers, as well as contributions of cash, non-perishable food items and paper goods, such as toilet paper and paper towels. For more information, visit http://souptonutssoupkitchen.org.
“It’s just been absolutely amazing, and it’s sad — it’s bittersweet — but at the same time we’re so happy to be open,” Hart said, “and to be able to give as much as we can possibly give for a very local organization.”