This article was written by BenitoLink intern Andrew Pearson.
The local Soup for Seniors initiative has received a $500 grant from Slow Food California, a worldwide organization which promotes “good, clean and fair food for all.” The organization’s “San Benito Bounty” chapter has found Hollister’s Soup for Seniors program aligned with its mission.
“My customers wanted to give money to us to deliver produce bags to the [Community] Food Bank,” but “because of the increase in volume in our business we didn’t have enough manpower to do that, so I decided to offer a big pot of soup that people could contribute money to,” said Becky Herbert, co-founder of Soup for Seniors and owner of Farmhouse Café and Eating with the Seasons.
The Community Food Bank was swift to take Herbert and Soup for Seniors co-founder Mike Fisher up on the offer. Hundreds of seniors across Hollister, a representative told them, are prevented by physical disability and the danger of the coronavirus from going to the food bank’s distribution sessions, which take place between 9-11:50 a.m on Fridays and Saturdays. To feed our town’s elders, Herbert, Fisher and Farmhouse employees make the “big pot” and give the soup to distributors every Tuesday.
Herbert said it has always been her ambition, even more than owning a restaurant, to help feed the elderly, the poor and the homeless with her culinary gifts.
“The heads of the San Benito County chapter [of Slow Food] are friends… [and] customers of mine… and they support my Soup-er Hero project, so when they found out that Slow Food had a grant program, they recommended that I apply for it,” she said. “We were able to produce a couple hundred more bowls of soup with that contribution.”
Fisher, of Fisher’s Restaurant and Catering, the self-described “brawn” of Soup for Seniors, brews the week’s soup on Mondays from whatever surplus and donated ingredients are available at Farmhouse Café. His soup is always vegetarian and he abstains from common irritants and allergens, such as gluten, nuts, and excess salt.
“It’s like an episode of ‘Chopped,’ where you don’t know what you’re gonna get but you have to make something and it has to taste good,” Fisher said.
On Tuesdays, 300 Hollister seniors receive the program’s soup through the food bank and Christ Fellowship Church that Fisher attends. The church keeps a list of elderly people sheltering in place and delivers the soup to their door. Soup for Seniors doesn’t drive around town dispensing hot soup from a spigot on a big tank truck, “but that’s kind of my dream, to be honest,” Herbert laughed.
Alan Ritter, a friend of Herbert who receives soup deliveries through Christ Fellowship, said, “They’ve provided some good help to make life a little easier for seniors here.”
Nancy Stafford, another recipient through the church, said the deliveries have been “a godsend.”
“It reminds us that we’re not alone, and that there are people out there who are caring and loving and that we’re not forgotten,” she said. “We look forward to it every week, and it has been just wonderful. We know they can’t do it all the time, but it’s just been wonderful that they would think of us, and it’s a great ministry.”
Fisher will begin teaching remote cooking classes at San Benito High School on Aug. 13, and from then on he plans to work part-time for Soup for Seniors.
The program will continue to serve San Benito County’s elders. Herbert will continue through ongoing GoFundMe donations, and the Farmhouse Café team will serve as its chefs.
“I want to build it into the Farmhouse Café profile, we’re always doing a project,” she said. “I want to find a way to keep it going to help our seniors.”
Herbert hopes to find other organizations to help sponsor the program.
“There’s such a need for healthy food, for people who can’t afford it.”
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