Food is an instrument for connecting communities through cultural exchanges, social gatherings, and fundraisers for social good. Sharing food with others effectively keeps us connected and reminds us of the importance that it plays in our everyday lives. Whenever I have made space at the table for more to share a meal with me, the meal is always more satisfying.
At Hiram College we have multiple occasions to bring people together with food, but one of the most influential is Bread and Soup.
Bread and Soup has been a part of Hiram’s Campus tradition since 1982. It began when the late Rev. Thomas Niccolls, former Hiram College chaplain, helped students create a program to help those in need, especially the hungry. According to an article in the Record-Courier dated March 12, 1983, Hiram College students originally had “a little skepticism” about using their dining room for the project. Nonetheless, after the program’s creators collected 250 signatures, Bread and Soup began in the winter quarter of 1982. In the program’s first year, it raised $2,000 and donated funds to OXFAM America to provide relief and food in the Horn of Africa, which was suffering from a war between Somalia and Ethiopia.
After 33 years, this tradition it is still going strong and impacting our campus and community in many ways.
One way is the Habitat for Humanity Auction, another Hiram tradition created to raise funds to send a group of students off to help build a home for a family in need. Students, faculty, and staff donate items (many of them food-related!) to be auctioned off during a February Bread and Soup. The auction is one of the most well-attended nights, as people look forward to the lively auctioneers and to seeing just how high students (often pooling their money) will bid on a dinner for eight at their professor’s house.
And this year, for every meal purchased, one dollar goes towards The Pack Shack’s “Feed the Funnel” program, an initiative where every dollar provides a meal to four local families. An Ohio Poverty Report indicates that “one in six children go hungry in Portage County alone” (Ohio Poverty Report). These numbers similarly reflect the hunger statistics for our country: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.”
When one purchases a meal at Bread and Soup, they are not only eating in solidarity with those who have limited food options, but also are generating funds that will benefit those in need. So far, Hiram College has raised over $7,000, and Hiram students will be feeding the funnel this Thursday, March 31! Come on over to the Fleming Field House and Coleman Center at 9:00 a.m. and join us!
But Bread and Soup is more than just a way to help others in need. It has become a staple of Hiram community life that keeps people coming back year after year.
During my four years at Hiram College, I have loved supporting the Bread and Soup nights, but there are people who have been faithful attendees of the dinner for over two decades. Many emeritus faculty members and active community members frequently come and enjoy Bread and Soup: “When eating this simple meal it reminds me of how we should be living humbly and reinforced my commitment to being in solidarity with vulnerable populations,” said Jon Moody, former Hiram College chaplain, and emeritus faculty of Religious Studies.
Other folks come because they see the importance of sharing a meal with some of their beloved friends and family members. Some students like the fact that they get a break from eating in the dining hall and that some of their money is being used for philanthropy: “I love that I don’t have to climb up and down the hill,” says a Hiram first year student, “but it’s also nice that some of the money is used to feed the hungry.”
When you enter the Hiram College Dix Dining Room on a Thursday night during the spring semester, you’re likely to see many long-time community members conversing about life and current events, or students giggling with faculty members’ children. You may even get the chance to listen to strumming of a guitar paired with singing from a music major, while eating a comforting meal with a purpose.
As SEED Scholars, we are interested in sustainable food, but also in food that sustains. This simple meal has helped sustain friendships and community relationships in many ways. We hope to see this tradition sustained for many years to come.