Nearly every week for the past nine years, hundreds of chronically ill patients and low-income seniors have received a nutritious soup meal delivered to their doorstep from the Organic Soup Kitchen of Santa Barbara.
The nonprofit organization partners with local referral agencies, including Cottage Health, the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics to provide healthy meals to those in need — mostly cancer or chronically-ill patients, homebound seniors, and the growing number of elderly people socially isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic
It’s a service that now depends on replacing a $10,000 device to continue, and the Organic Soup Kitchen is asking the community for help.
“The container sealing machine may be the most critical piece of equipment in the whole operation,” founder and Executive Director Anthony Carroccio said.
The robotic apparatus hermetically seals the soup inside its container, ensuring that no airborne pathogens, viruses or bacteria can enter. This tight sealant also means the soup can last for three weeks in the refrigerator.
“We need the machine to ensure safety and to deliver on our promise,” Carroccio said. “What we provide is more than a bowl of soup. It’s a meal that supports health and well-being.”
The Organic Soup Kitchen has been using its container-sealing machine for 10 years as the program expanded, but it needs to fund a $10,000 replacement to continue its soup delivery program.
Every ingredient — and there is a minimum of 15 in each recipe — that goes into creating these nutrient-dense meals is carefully selected, down to the salt itself, he said.
The soups meet the nutritional value of a full meal and contain organic, plant-based, immune-system-boosting ingredients.
The soup is cooked at 170 degrees then dropped to 140 degrees, at which time the soup gets driven with a stainless-steel pump and airtight sealed by the container sealer that now needs to be replaced.
The essential safety sealant has been serving the Organic Soup Kitchen — and by extension the organization’s 500-plus weekly customers — for nearly a decade.
The organization has expanded its community reach since March, when it got slammed with requests because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Organic Soup Kitchen now delivers to people isolated at home and to health care workers at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
While the soups can sell for $15 per quart, people pay on a sliding scale based on what they can afford. The vast majority of customers pay minimally or nothing at all, Carroccio said.
He and his wife, Andrea, started the company on the heels of the 2008 recession.
“We saw that there were a lot of people who needed help, and we were fortunately in a position to do something,” he said.
Carroccio said he harnessed the knowledge and resources he acquired as creator of Healthy Retreats and Spa magazine, putting nutritious recipes into practice in his kitchen.
They started with a pot of soup serving the homeless and the operation grew to producing 240 gallons per week. Carroccio said he’d like to build scalable resources that extend to other communities.
He runs a tight operation, employing 20 delivery drivers, three employees and five kitchen volunteers, working hard to keep costs down without sacrificing quality.
“I find it most rewarding to be able to do something to help others and to do it right,” he said.
The online campaign to fund a new sealing machine is available on the Organic Soup Kitchen website by clicking here.
Soup can also be purchased online and picked up at the Organic Soup Kitchen, at 608 Anacapa St., Suite C. Individual or family meals are available, and each purchase helps support the soup meal delivery program.— Noozhawk contributing writer Ann Pieramici can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.