Soup and Bread

Summer soup update

On July 3 I delivered the final (very belated) installment of Soup & Bread donations to La Casa Norte, in Humboldt Park. La Casa Norte provides housing and other supportive services to youth and families experiencing homelessness, and just moved into a spiffy new five-story building on North Avenue at Central Park. They were actually supposed to have the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building on the same day as their Soup & Bread event on January 30, but both wound up getting cancelled due to the polar vortex, when temps plunged below -20.

IMG_0561 But, better late than never, right? Rebecca Sumner Burgos, their outreach coordinator, gave me a tour of the new space, which includes 25 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a space for teens complete with lockers, a computer lab, and a stage, and–of course–a food pantry and community cafe. Since the space opened, Rebecca said, they’ve heard anecdotally that people don’t know, or don’t believe, that this is a space serving people in need. Passersby think it’s some new condo construction (of which there’s plenty nearby) and sometimes clients do too, and might not come in.

This is funny, of course, but also infuriating. Why can’t a space for homeless people, hungry families, vulnerable children be nice? Why is a clean, architecturally interesting, well-resourced building assumed to be the right of the rich? Why can’t this massive city, with all its intellectual and material capital, allocate its wealth equitably?


IMG_0552Anyway, as you may have heard the area around the Hideout is being redeveloped as a massive commercial/ residential/ entertainment complex. The lot where snowplows and garbage trucks used to idle, and where the Hideout Block Party took place for years, has been cleared and laid with a temporary thin layer of turf, creating a youth soccer field for the summer. In the fall, I guess it will get dug up again — unless this lawsuit aiming to block the creation of the Cortland and Chicago River TIF District manages to slow things down. (I wrote about all of this for the Baffler earlier this year.)

The Hideout isn’t going anywhere (at least not as far as I know) but what this means for Soup & Bread is an open question. If, by next winter, the area surrounding the H/O is an unmanageable, unpleasant construction site, that may well give us pause.

IMG_8797This past year we raised just under $10,000 in individual donations over 13 weeks, and delivered $750 each in cold cash to food pantries and kitchens all over Chicago. This is the best part of doing this — getting out into the spaces where people are actually doing the work. It makes me so happy, but also it’s an important to be reminded on the regular just how much people in the field are doing with so very fucking little. Like at Dignity Diner, which works under the radar of larger outfits, serving 50 people hot meals once a week, and buying most of the ingredients out of pocket, rather than relying on donations. Or at Ravenswood Community Services where an enterprising volunteer with pastry skills decorated hundreds of slices of carrot cake with individual carrots.IMG_8804

When I went to visit Casa Catalina Basic Human Needs Center in Back of the Yards, Sr. Joellen Tumas and Liz Flores, the sole other paid staffer, were in the process of reorganizing their entire storefront operation along the lines of a “full-choice market” — one where clients can work with a personal shopper to pick from the pantry offerings — with the help of volunteers while also trying to serve 150 people a day, and figure out where to put kids to play while their mothers picked up food.

IMG_8813I’ve talked in the past about Soup & Bread as a “funnel.” In startup culture this is the term of art for marketing, for getting customers to buy your product, click on your app, and maximize your profit. I just mean it as a mechanism for moving money from one space to another. For redistributing wealth, ahem. No matter what happens with Lincoln Yards, that’s not going to stop, because it can happen anywhere, in any space — the back of a bar, of course, but also a bookstore, a farmers market, a vacant lot. You just have to build a new funnel, using the material close at hand.

Happy summer, friends. Let’s celebrate what we are lucky to have, and keep scavenging the tools to build bigger and better funnels.

Soup & Bread


PS: Come out to Veggie Bingo, S&B’s sister project, every Wednesday at 5:30 through the end of August at, yes, the Hideout! Win fresh produce and other local agricultural products and help us raise money to support Chicago community gardens! Produced in partnership with the Hideout and NeighborSpace.


Posted: Thursday Jul 4,2019 11:56 AM In Uncategorized

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