Virtual soup kitchen feeds student multitudes

Virtual soup kitchen feeds student multitudes

A new project combines Zoom meetings, recipes, and delivery of some key ingredients to create the ‘‘Virtual Soup+ kitchen’. This gives students everything they need for some cheap, healthy meals, and provides a sense of community during a time when most are experiencing isolation.

Rev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler is the Uniting Church Chaplain at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta City campus. On her blog, she explains the rationale behind the project.

“What I am trying to do is teach students how to survive on basic staples made interesting and palatable with some tiny luxuries—and keeping the costs to a bare minimum,” she writes.

“This is a passing on of knowledge from my two grandmothers who were children in the Depression—one in Australia and the other in Malaysia and China. They passed their knowledge on.”

“Once upon a time, I was a student supporting myself in a foreign country and struggling to survive. I was studying in France where food is important but also pretty expensive. I am trying to help people see they really can make nutritious meals for $2 to $3 and enjoy them.”

“My best advice to you is to learn five to six basic recipes that can be modified according to what ingredients you can get hold of. A few spices can make things more enjoyable and make you feel as if you are still exploring adventures.”

At the time of writing, the online ‘Cooking with a Chaplain’ class has taken place twice, with Rev. Dr Koh Butler sharing her knowledge with students via Zoom meetings.

Slightly more than 40 people attended the first night’s event online. The next week had slightly fewer people, but was during holidays, while bandwidth at some of the uni residences was problematic.

The first step in the project was delivering ingredients to students who needed them.

“We started by delivering 150 care packs. Each had the basic dry ingredients for six dishes that served two people in each, i.e. 1800 meals,” Rev. Dr Koh Butler said.

“We also provided a few fresh veggies for the first two weeks.”

While it is more difficult to get feedback with much less face-to-face interaction, Rev. Dr Koh Butler said that the initial response has been positive, with “Good feedback through the internal university messaging and Western Sydney University’s Facebook sites.”

 “There were way more hits on my blog—so people are using the recipes we think,” she said.

Rev. Dr Koh Butler said that the experience has taught her that the church has a missional opportunity during the time of COVID-19.

“The Uniting Church needs to use this as a Missional opportunity to connect with people in our society who are hungering for physical and spiritual and relational connection,” she said.

“We need to shift from the scrambling around worship to focus on some key needs in our society. People welcome us building community at the moment.”

For more information, visit Rev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler’s blog here.


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