This Woman Is Turning Food Waste Into Meals for Hungry Kids

By: Lucy M. Casale, Associate Editor  |  EatingWell Magazine September/October 2018  |  The Soup Queen of Cincinnati

Suzy DeYoung's non-profit La Soupe in Cincinnati, Ohio has turned 263,000 tons of food waste into healthy meals for people in need.

After operating a catering business in her home city of Cincinnati for 25 years, Suzy DeYoung craved a change. And in 2014, two statistics in the news gave her food for thought: 40 percent of America's food was going to waste and 42 percent of Cincinnatians were food-insecure. "If I could just take 20 percent from one column and shift it to the other," DeYoung pondered, "it would be so much better for everybody!" That year, DeYoung sold her business and started La Soupe: a nonprofit that transforms food destined for the dumpster into soup for the hungry. But one event crystallized her mission.

Related: 2018 EatingWell American Food Heroes

What She Did

One November Friday, Cincinnati's Oyler School had an unexpected snow day. Kids who typically received food to take home for the weekend didn't. The next Monday, DeYoung saw a teacher's Facebook post saying that some of her students hadn't eaten for three days because of the closure. DeYoung said, "B.S. I've got food!" So she brought some food to the school. The principal took note of the healthy options and asked if La Soupe could take over and make the students' weekend meal boxes. For DeYoung, the answer was clear: "That's why I'm doing this: to utilize perfectly good food that was going to waste and get it to people in need."

Why It's Cool

Today, La Soupe feeds 2,000 Cincinnatians weekly and during the school year kids get a weekend "Souper Sack" filled with homemade soup, fresh fruit, protein-snack bags with nuts and cheese, and applesauce or smoothie. To date, DeYoung along with a staff of 13 and 100-plus volunteers have saved 263,000 tons of food waste—enough to fill a football stadium, twice! La Soupe also hosts kids' cooking classes, delivers free soups to city food deserts in its Soupe Mobile and sells soup from its Soupe Shack. "We're not diverting food waste," DeYoung says. "We're creating with it. The reason it was grown? To be eaten!"

 

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