Farm to Table Concentration: Hudson Valley—Soup Challenge Reflections

Being in the Farm to Table Concentration allows for many different chef–community outreach opportunities. This was the case when my classmates and I went to People’s Place-Thrift Store and Food Pantry, located in Kingston NY. Since 1972, People’s Place, a not-for- profit organization, has had the goal to feed, clothe, and respond to the needs of the people in the Ulster County area. It offers several different programs and activities for food insecure and low-income families. They include: a low-priced thrift shop; food pantry, where ulster county residents can receive food items based on their income and family size; a farm stand open to all, no matter their income; and a community café, where anyone can receive a hot meal at no cost.

My class participate in the organization’s soup challenge. My teammates and I were tasked to create unique soups to share with those residents who came to the farm stand. The ingredients we used were from those products People’s Place takes in from local food banks. The ingredients vary depending on the season and what is available. Butternut squash was one of the main produce items we received, along with heirloom/purple cauliflower, baby carrots, heirloom tomatoes, and onions.

My teammates Emily, Abrinna, and I wanted to incorporate a curry theme, so we made butternut squash curry soup. Some of the other soups my classmates created included onion soup, coconut and butternut squash soup, cream of carrot, and butternut soup.

This was the first time the Farm to Table Concentration has done an outreach soup project like this. More than 100 people came and tasted all four soups that we made. The local radio station, Radio Kingston, was even there and spoke with our professor, Dr. Reid, and a few of my classmates, encouraging more people to come on out to the Soup Challenge event.

This was the first time I personally had direct contact with volunteering or feed those who are food insecure and may or may not have gotten a meal that day. As a chef, being told that you make good food is the highest compliment you can receive, and hearing that from those who tasted my team’s butternuts squash soup felt amazing!

I really enjoyed my time at People’s Place, and I would love to undertake an activity like this again where I am interacting with people in my home community. I live in a food-insecure area in my own neighborhood in New Jersey. We have a total of 15,000 residents and only one grocery store in my town, so I’d love to do something like this there.

Majestic Lewis-Bryant