Food

Soup Brigade

Helping feed the need

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

For years, I’ve been one of many Bellinghamsters receiving regular email alerts about the local music scene from Columbia neighborhood resident Flip Breskin.

But with the arrival of COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of most live shows, “Flip’s Picks” pivoted its focus to ways residents can stay connected with one another during the pandemic. From helping organize a socially distanced chalk art festival in the summer to drawing attention to livestreamed concerts to informing people about where to spot Santa Claus, get tested for the coronavirus, or find free food pantries, the emails and blog posts offer solid details about a variety of topics.

In late November, Breskin posted that she’d starting delivering hot hardboiled eggs every morning to homeless residents who’d set up camp in front of Bellingham City Hall as a way to draw attention to the need for safe housing and shelter for vulnerable community members. She was looking for assistance from neighbors who’d be willing to deliver the eggs to Camp 210 each morning, and people were happy to help.

As the weather deteriorated and the encampment spread across the street to the library lawn, Breskin and others realized they could help feed the need in a larger capacity. By Dec. 5, a “Soup Brigade” was gathering a supply of large pots, getting donations of to-go containers with lids and spoons, sourcing ingredients such as lentils, squash, carrots, potatoes and onions, and soliciting volunteers to make the soup. An online MealTrain was started, and since then the group has been providing soup and a variety of other menu items on a daily basis.

“I asked for help, and you sure came through,” Breskin wrote in a Dec. 9 post. “I am so touched! My front entry is filled with soup to-go containers and lids. Neighbors have donated cash to buy more. Some of the money may go for other things, as other urgent needs arise, but it will all assist neighbors without shelter this winter… Plus, I now have a lovely list of delivery volunteers, though we can always use more. We are an amazing community. Thank you for answering when I call. It means the world to me.”

With a “many hands make light work” ethos, the Soup Brigade is going strong, and is still needed even though the City of Bellingham recently approved an emergency encampment for more than 30 people in the parking lot at Civic Field—with two or three more sites under negotiation.

If you go to the MealTrain to sign up to deliver a hot meal, Breskin says to remember to include how many servings you will be bringing so that others can see where they might best fill in the blanks. Even if it doesn’t look like there’s space, she says, you can take soup anyway, as it’s all getting eaten.

“Look for meals that have no one signed up yet, and also look for folks who have signed up to bring fewer than 50 meals,” she says. “Click on that person’s name, and coordinate with them to bring enough food between you. Your meals don’t have to match. Variety is a good thing. Together, we can do this!”

For more details, go to http://www.mealtrain.com/trains/nnmwke

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