By Denise Van Wychen
The Eastern Shore Musquodoboit Community Health Board (ESMCHB) is a volunteer board of community members working to improve the health of the community in a variety of ways. We have been working on several mental health and wellness initiatives in the past number of years. We have created brochures and helping trees, supported projects to pilot service programs, hosted events, built partnerships, advocated for services and much more. In the fall of 2021, the Community Health Board began looking for a project that could be implemented during COVID restrictions and would impact several of our priorities including; social isolation, mental wellness, awareness of resources and access to food. The essence of the project was to build a community of people who are supporting other people. We developed the idea and implemented the Giving Soup for the Soul project from December 2021 to June 2022 with the hope that this project would spur a movement of passing on food, awareness of local resources, checking on neighbors, and visiting with people.
The Giving Soup for the Soul project includes; a jar of chicken noodle dry-soup mix, which we placed in a gift bag; a bag of tea biscuit mix, which was provided by ESFRA and the Musquodoboit Family Resource Centre; and various mental health and community resources including; ESMCHB Mental Wellness brochure, ESMCHB recruitment postcard, 211 rack card, Well-being HUB brochure, Sheet Harbour Sexual Health Centre brochure, Eastern Shore Musquodoboit Valley Literacy Network’s recipe card, Musquodoboit Valley Family Resource Centre’s brochure, Eating Disorders NS brochure and the Halifax Public Library brochure. The label on the outside of the bag encouraged people to share the soup (and themselves) with others. The idea was to pass on the gift of the soup, encouraging people to reach out to others, decrease social isolation, connect people to resources and promote the work of the ESMCHB.
The 500 jars of free soup were distributed to Eastern Shore and Musquodoboit Valley residents in a variety of ways including; at the Musquodoboit Harbour Christmas parade, with the Musqie Meals in Musquodoboit Valley, through the three Library locations in the region, via LEA Place Women’s Resource Centre, via the Deanery, via the Well-being HUB coordinator, via the Seaforth Country Store, with Barefoot Farmer deliveries, the MVFRC’s JOY group and via board members who have handed them out in their communities. Our partners have been key to the distribution of the Giving Soup bags.
The project has allowed us to get key resources into the hands of residents who may know people who are struggling, living alone, are lonely or just not very social. The act of giving this package of resources and soup to another person is rewarding and potentially an excuse to ask someone how they are, or to start a conversation. This project has hopefully reached those we tend not to be able to reach with typical programs. We hope that other community groups will copy the idea and continue with the Giving Soup concept.
All the partners we’ve spoken to have told us how much people love getting the soup bags. The recipients rave about the delicious soup and how comforting it was. Some have passed the gift onto others in their community while many of those who initially received the soup have enjoyed it themselves. We’ve been asked to share our recipe and have talked to a couple of organizations about how they could continue the project in their own community.
The ESMCHB knows that this Giving Soup for the Soul project has not fixed food security, made mental health services more accessible, or eliminated social isolation, but together with many community partners we have made someone’s day. We’ve provided resources, a comforting meal and hopefully a visit from a friend or neighbour.
[Note: Denise VanWychen is the Coordinator for the Eastern Shore Musquodoboit Community Health Board & the South Colchester Community Health Board.]