By Emerson Malone
The Organic Soup Kitchen (OSK), a nonprofit organization based in Santa Barbara, is now offering a complimentary soup lunch every Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building.
OSK has garnered a reputation for its philanthropic acts of feeding those in need, particularly on big family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Anthony Carroccio, OSK’s executive director, has been offering this new lunch service for the past month. The service is not limited to veterans, however, and many of its patrons are homeless.
“How do you say no to someone who’s not a veteran?” Carroccio asked. “I’m doing as much as I can with what I’ve got to work with given the whole operation. If anyone came in that wasn’t a veteran, we would still accommodate them . . . I don’t treat anybody like they’re homeless.”
Carroccio is not a veteran but he respects their service.
“I wasn’t going to go to Vietnam,” he said. “I felt bad for the guys that did. That’s why I feed them.”
So far, there has not been a high turnout of veterans because the program is still relatively new. Carroccio is somewhat wary of repeating OSK’s previous tradition of offering a free meal to the homeless.
OSK occupied the Veteran’s Memorial Building every Sunday morning for nine months in 2010 and part of 2011, feeding Santa Barbara’s hungry and homeless residents. The program became extremely popular. But it reached its end after homeless people began to camp in sleeping bags outside the building on Saturday night.
“Since there are no toilets outside, it wasn’t too pleasant for the nearby hotels,” Carroccio said. “Now they’ve given me the green light to use it again. We’ll see what happens . . . We just got to start getting the word out there. We’ll take our chances. If people don’t behave, we’ll figure something out.”
Other programs offered by OSK include “Baby Carrots,” in which low-income pregnant women are given food during their pregnancy and while they’re breastfeeding. OSK also offers “Wise Elder” a program designed to provide nutritious food for housebound elderly people.
OSK is especially busy during the holidays. Their Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts at the Veteran’s Memorial Building are by now famous events, drawing almost as many volunteers as diners, and creating a venue for residents of all varying socio-economic brackets to mingle.
The weekly soup lunches heat up every Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. and to 1:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard.
For more information on the Organic Soup Kitchen, visit organicsoupkitchen.org. or call (805) 568-0020