Naomi Boscoe had an idea in the back of her mind for many years. Bothered by seeing Gold Coast locals sleeping rough in the streets, and knowing how much fresh produce is discarded from supermarkets each day, she was keen to do something about it. But it was a magazine article about a 12-year-old girl who set up her own soup kitchen that galvanised Naomi into action: giving rise to Soul Soup, a predominantly vegan soup kitchen in Labrador.
Now in its seventh week, Soul Soup is beginning to gain some traction in the community.
“Each week, as the word spreads, we get a few more guests come down to share a meal, and a few new people just wanting to lend a hand,” Naomi explains.
“Some are homeless, some facing financial hardship and some are just socially isolated and enjoy the company.”
Soul Soup serves hot meals, which are comprised of donated produce from Second Bite, a program that distributes excess stock from supermarkets, which would otherwise go to landfill.
In addition there is a table of donations collected from locals where guests can help themselves to clothing, toiletries, packaged foods and personal care items. When available, a hairdresser comes along and offers complimentary haircuts to anyone who would like one, and a local musician sings and plays. Naomi herself is keen to see all guests be as comfortable as possible.
“We know all our guests by name, and sit down and share a meal and a chat with them, and look forward to hearing their stories of what’s happened throughout the week,” she says.
“[One] of our regulars told me that it’s the highlight of his week. He lives alone, and doesn’t have any contact with his family, and told us that until he started joining us for dinner each week, he hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in years. We have another gentleman who has been out of work for a couple of years, and through word of mouth and social media, we have a couple of potential employers that may give him a chance.”
At the end of the night, the volunteers pack up any leftovers into takeaway containers and deliver them to the local boarding houses and refuges, or to people sleeping on the streets. The team works full time as well as running the kitchen, so more volunteers are always welcome.
Soul Soup is location at the back of the Labrador Community Hub, in the Baden Robin and Arthur Downes Park on Thursday evenings from 5.00-6.00pm. All are welcome to pop down, have a meal or drop off donations.
To keep up to date with news or contact Naomi, visit the Soul Soup Facebook page.