Nestled between downtown San Jose and Willow Glen lies a "little soup kitchen" that will soon turn 30 years old as the largest and oldest soup kitchen in Santa Clara County. Founder Louise Benson began this work out of her garage when she prepared and gave away peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for those in need. Then in 1981, she and her friends started Martha's Kitchen at Sacred Heart Church serving hot meals. The kitchen was named after a biblical figure, Martha, who offered hot meals to Jesus and his followers on their journeys through the community of Bethany.
Today, this "little soup kitchen" is not so little anymore. It still gives out hot meals on-site with its mission to "feed the hungry with dignity, no questions asked, no judgment made." And its meals are hot and complete with soup, salad, roll, starch, a main dish, fruit, and dessert. It also sends out 160,000 hot and cold meals annually to a dozen other non-profit organizations in Santa Clara county as far south as Gilroy, and even to the agricultural town of Dos Palos in Merced County to support the hungry. By the end of 2010, Martha's Kitchen will serve its 2,000,000th meal since it has grown to an annual production of 200,000 meals. The "little soup kitchen that could" has proven it certainly could run an efficient kitchen with a lean staff of 6 employees and dozens of volunteers.
Edita Cruz, the Executive Director, says "Second Harvest Food Bank is one of our strongest partners that allow Martha's Kitchen to keep its doors open to the hungry in our community. 90% of what we serve comes from either the Food Bank or the supermarkets where our volunteers pick up donations. The Food Bank and Martha's Kitchen together form a safety net for our neighbors in need."
Between July 2009 and June 2010, Second Harvest delivered 241,293 pounds to Martha's Kitchen. These foods include ready-to-eat items, ingredients for their delicious home-made dinners and soups, plus fresh produce right off of our Produce Mobile truck.
"Martha's Kitchen is one of the more unique food distribution sites we work with, not only because of the special care to make their guests feel at home, but also the care they take in cooking from scratch with the help of an army of volunteers," says Cindy McCown, Senior Director of Programs and Services at the Food Bank. "They often see a lot of folks who come right off of work and many families with children. Martha's Kitchen, with their dedicated staff and volunteers, has become family to so many of our local families in need of a hot meal and a warm smile."
Watch the video below for a short glimpse of the busy atmosphere in the dining hall during serving time.
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