ST. GEORGE — In times of stress, psychologists and community service organizations say those already in need of physical and psychological support tend to suffer the most.
This is especially true now when resources are stretched thin, said Mark Ivie, a volunteer at the St. George Soup Kitchen, a division of Switchpoint Community Resource Center.
Among the service and religious groups that prepare and serve food at the soup kitchen are the Knights of Columbus, members of the Methodist and LDS churches, Dixie Elks Lodge and occasional random volunteers.
“I find myself standing beside people all from different religions, and all we want to do is prepare food and try to help others,” Ivie said. “We all take a lot of joy in serving our community together.”
Ivie moved to St. George from Pittsburgh three years ago to retire. After volunteering at a food bank in Pennsylvania, he said it was a natural extension to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Southern Utah.
“I tried to volunteer at a few places, but the soup kitchen tugged at my heartstrings,” he said.
At any given time there are 25 volunteer teams at the soup kitchen consisting of eight to 10 people who dedicate their time once a month – and sometimes each week – to serve those in need.
Unlike other community services, the soup kitchen has no prerequisites to get support. If you think you need a meal, Ivie said, show up for lunch between 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Grace Episcopal Church, 1072 East and 900 South, give a first name and an age group and you will be fed.
“Usually there are rules and regulations that sometimes involve taking drug tests,” he said. “There is no judgment at the soup kitchen. Our purpose is to make a meal and for you to come by and take it from us.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivie estimated that about half of the people who visited the soup kitchen not only came for the food but for the social aspect of visiting with others in the cafeteria.
Ivie said more than 20% of the people who ask for a meal are homeless.
“There are some people who come after we close, and you can tell this is their only shot at food for the day,” he said. “We will go in and find something for them to eat even if all the hot food is gone.”
Between 50 and 100 people or more seek a meal at the soup kitchen each day. Because of current social distance protocols, meals these days are provided on a to-go basis.
A typical meal is a “hearty” main course, Ivie said, that includes a starch, a protein and often cheese, vegetables, salad, fruit and bread such as garlic toast. Ivie said the most popular meal is the meatloaf that is served twice a month.
The soup kitchen is stocked through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bishop Storehouse, the Utah Food Bank and the Utah Food Bank rescue food truck, which collects and delivers items daily from local grocery stores.
“People also walk in from the street and donate food,” Ivie said.
Although there are some days the kitchen runs low on vegetables and fruit, for the most part they are well-stocked, Ivie said, but donations are always welcomed.
Along with the soup kitchen, twice a month on the second and last Friday of the month Grace Episcopal Church distributes food boxes from the Utah Food Bank during the same hours as the soup kitchen.
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