Cooking Up Change – Feeding Community at the Organic Soup Kitchen

Food is essential. It is the foundation of life and the groundwork for a healthy mind and body. But for more than 1,000 homeless people in Santa Barbara, food can be a challenge, with many suffering from heart disease, edema and diabetes due to poor nutrition. One man hopes to change this.

Anthony Carroccio

Photos by Jeanine Brandi McLychok

“These people are human beings. In my house, we have the best of food. I’m not going to feed the homeless any differently,” said Anthony Carroccio, founder of the Organic Soup Kitchen.

Founded in 2009, the Organic Soup Kitchen has given community members an answer, a place to cure many of life’s ailments. Charismatic and compassionate, Carroccio is a food enthusiast, one who believes good food should be available to all. Since the early 1980s, Carroccio has focused on living a holistic life- style, being a raw food devotee and founding Healing Retreats and Spas magazine.

“I’ve always been interested in health and well-being,” said Carroccio. “Food, yoga, your social life, how you breathe, how you think, how you treat people – it’s all related, it’s all one.”

Carroccio chopping vegetables

Photos by Jeanine Brandi McLychok

On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Fridays of each month, the Organic Soup Kitchen offers free meals to residents at Transition House, a resource and living center for homeless families. Free meals are also served on Mon- days and Tuesdays at the local Veteran’s Memorial Building, which donates its kitchen to Carroccio for his soup production.

“I get a lot out of it. My volunteers get a lot out of it. It’s not only helping the community, we are getting the ‘juice’ too. I love doing this!” said Carroccio.

Carroccio’s passion is evident in his food. His cooking is based around fresh, organic produce, much of which is donated by local farmers. All his soups are coconut based. They are also low glycemic, anti-inflammatory, low in sodium, and gluten-free. Cooking with Himalayan salt and palm blossom sap, his soups offer a full spectrum of 84 minerals, further enhancing the nutritional benefits.

“There’s a whole psychology behind food. We think we choose what we like, but we don’t. We have an emotional urge that drives us towards certain food,” said Carroccio. “Everyone craves salt, sugar, fats, and carbs. So I don’t try and cut those out, I just include them in a healthy way.”

Red Cabbage

Photos by Jeanine Brandi McLychok

The Organic Soup Kitchen offers a model for collaboration, a compassionate act supported by the greater community. Helping in the kitchen, Carroccio has enlisted Community Solutions Incorporated, an organization that helps promote independence and accountability among at-risk youth, many coming from the criminal justice system.

“We work with a lot of people that just got out of prison. I like training them how to work in a kitchen,” said Carroccio. “It’s a lot more than just preparing food. It’s how to be around other people, how to not intimidate someone, how to be humble.”

Carroccio preparing soup

Photos by Jeanine Brandi McLychok

With more than 800 volunteers in his database and growing, it is clear Carroccio has created a true community. In the year ahead, Carroccio hopes to expand his online natural marketplace (NaturalProductsGuide.com), as well as build his own commercial kitchen for local soup production. Raising the bar both locally and nationwide, the impact will be monumental.

“To do any type of service and to make any kind of collective impact, you have to collaborate,” said Carroccio. “It’s community no matter how you look at it, in its highest form. We are all working together.”

This story first appeared in LoaLiving Magazine, vol. 2, winter 2013.

By Rachel Hommel – Photos by Jeanine Brandi McLychok

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