SEQUIM — Proper food-handling skills, a clean bill of health and a big heart make up the ingredients of Shelley Jefferson’s kitchen.
The assistant principal at Helen Haller Elementary is gathering a growing base of volunteers to help with a new soup kitchen out of the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve just been seeing what’s happening with families statewide and here,” Jefferson said. “I felt a call to action to help.”
Four nights a week — Monday through Thursday — volunteers make one of 10 soups and deliver them Tuesday through Friday to several apartment complexes: Elk Creek, Mountain View, Seabreeze and Vintage at Sequim.
In the first week, volunteers delivered soups over four nights to 32 homes with 47 adults and 38 children between the three apartment complexes, Jefferson said.
This week, at least 96 people signed up to receive soup and bread between the apartments.
“I wanted to reach out to the apartment complexes because I knew they were some of the most impacted people in the community,” Jefferson said.
She spoke with Andra Smith, executive director of the Sequim Food Bank, and began coordinating with her for supplies, such as bread, dry and canned food and meat.
Smith said the food bank partners often with local groups and churches for similar meals and soup kitchens.
“This totally fits within our mission and what we do,” she said.
Scoop on soup
Prior to delivery, fliers went up at apartment complexes for residents to sign up.
Jefferson said important elements of the soup delivery are that sign-ups are ongoing, soups can go to anyone in the buildings — not just families — and the program will continue into the foreseeable future.
Vintage at Sequim started receiving deliveries this week, and, once the program becomes more established, she plans to explore expanded offerings to housebound seniors, too.
Soups include chili, vegetable beef, split pea, white chicken chili, chicken and rice, loaded baked potato, lentil, taco soup, chicken noodle and beef barley lentil.
“I’m hoping it tastes so good to them that it’s a treat,” Jefferson said.
Volunteers bring sealed food to residents’ front doors, knock and leave to limit possible contamination. Residents can freeze the food if they want, Jefferson said.
Those who make deliveries don’t have to hold a food-handler’s permit, but such a permit is needed to prepare food in the kitchen.
For now, Dungeness Community Church and Sequim Community Church volunteers will each cook and deliver soups one night a week while Sequim School District staff volunteer the remaining nights.
“It’s exciting to see how many people are excited to come and help,” Jefferson said.
The soup kitchen works under the umbrella of the Sequim Food Bank, and the Boys & Girls Club’s kitchen is approved by the Clallam County Health Department.
While many ingredients come from the food bank, some soup items — dried beans, carrots and meats — have come from private donors.
To donate, email Jefferson at [email protected].
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette. Reach him at [email protected].