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DeKalb soup kitchen expands to Feed ’Em After Dark

DeKALB – As the executive director, Derek Gibbs is proud of what Feed 'Em Soup has been able to do for DeKalb.

But he wants it to help more people.

To that end, the soup kitchen has started Feed 'Em After Dark – a late-night weekend eatery that will help Feed 'Em Soup to become self-sufficient. Feed 'Em After Dark is open from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the kitchen at 122 S. First St.

“As we grow and start expanding our services, there won’t be any interruptions in that,” Gibbs said. “We’ll have a regular income, feed people more often.”

Feed 'Em Soup is an organization that offers free meals on the second, fourth and fifth Wednesdays of every month.

Starting in January, the organization will increase its number of community meals to once a week. The meals also will become pay-what-you-can. Under this pricing model, a person would give what money they have, if any at all.

It also allows the organization to not rely heavily on donations. Gibbs said the organization could be financially vulnerable if a fundraising event goes poorly for whatever reason.

Gibbs said Feed 'Em Soup’s current free meal service can turn away people who feel that they might not be poor enough to use their services. By having people pay what they can, it removes that guilt, Gibbs said.

“It’s like Robin Hood, kind of,” Gibbs said. “Those who are able to contribute can pay the money who might not have the money to contribute.”

Feed ‘Em After Dark, however, has low prices for the food it offers. For instance, one classic cheeseburger slider is $1. The highest priced item on the menu is $2.

Alex Smith, the executive chef at Feed‘Em Soup, said part of the After Dark menu is flexible, which he likes. Working with Smith on Thursday were three volunteer assistants who help him with anything that needs to be done.

The three volunteers – Talon Foulker, Brooke Wilson and Destiny Johnson – all have culinary aspirations of their own, and each of them spoke to the experience Feed ‘Em After Dark was giving them.

“I want to go to culinary school, so I thought I’d volunteer in the kitchen,” Wilson said. “I liked it so I started coming to every meal.”

Johnson said the experience Feed ‘Em After Dark offers is something that cannot be matched anywhere else. Her culinary dream is to start her own bakery.

Both Smith and Gibbs, who have been with Feed ‘Em Soup for a number of years, have same vision for their organization: Each of them imagine the soup kitchen giving free meals to people in need four or five times a week.

“We’ve got people coming in on meal days who haven’t eaten in three or four days,” Smith said. “So if we can get more food available to people, there’s clearly a need for it.”

One step at a time though, Gibbs realized. In order for Feed ‘Em Soup to offer regular meals once a week, their After Dark program will have to make $1,200 every weekend. On Thanksgiving weekend, After Dark brought in $400 to $500, Gibbs said. The next weekend, however, that dollar amount jumped to $500 to $600.

The $1,200 a week wouldn’t pay for all of their expenses, Gibbs added, but it will allow them to get “cash in the bank.”

“This is not, by any means, our sole source of income,” Gibbs said. “But it provides stuff coming in on a more regular basis other than stockpiling and hoping we get through the next couple of months.”

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