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Dulles South Soup Kitchen and the Race Against Hunger

Dulles South Soup Kitchen and the Race Against Hunger

Written by Shayda Windle | Photo by Shannon Ayres

Four days a week, you can find a team of dedicated and talented cooks preparing hot, nutritious meals for those in need at the Dulles South Soup Kitchen (DSSK). Unlike traditional soup kitchens, where meals are served on-site, DSSK takes their generosity to the streets, distributing prepared meals free of cost, no questions asked. Their impact is significant, with 850 to 900 meals distributed weekly at Stone Springs Hospital and through community partnerships.

DSSK founder Devina Mahapatra’s vision has always been to “supplement the good work of the food pantries and other organizations in the community. Food pantries are a wonderful way to help our neighbors,” Mahapatra shares, “but they provide packaged provisions. For people who are homeless, who live out of their car, who don’t have a kitchen … they don’t have the ability to transform these items into a hot meal.” This is where Dulles South Soup Kitchen bridges the gap and provides the comfort and dignity of a freshly cooked meal.

Mahapatra’s journey began in her native India, where her family instilled in her a profound empathy for the underprivileged and an understanding of the transformative power of a warm meal. This ignited her lifelong mission: No one should ever go to bed hungry. Driven by this foundational principle, Mahapatra opened her heart and her home during the pandemic, preparing meals and serving them to those most in need. As the demand for meals grew, so did her vision. Mahapatra built a team of advisors, including board member Chef Kumar Iyer, owner of Manassas-based Rangoli, to assist in moving DSSK to a commercial kitchen capable of supporting larger volumes.

The sad truth is that in America’s wealthiest county, too many still experience food insecurity. Defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as the lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life, food insecurity impacts around 16,000 people in Loudoun County, with 49% of these residents ineligible for federal nutrition programs. Despite being named the wealthiest county in America, the child food insecurity rate in Loudoun County is 9.5%, or approximately 9,660 children, and of these children, 66% are likely ineligible for federal nutrition programs due to income limitations.

“Sometimes it will be a large, healthy salad alongside the main meal, but we always donate a meal, week after week, to supplement the work our local food pantries are doing,” shares Kim Curran, director of operations at Dulles South Soup Kitchen. “Our mission is to provide nutritious hot meals, free of charge, to anyone who is seeking nourishment in a warm, dignified, and compassionate environment.” DSSK is hoping to soon expand its direct distributions by adding a Sterling distribution site.

Curran says, “Some people don’t have time to cook. They are working two or three jobs. They don’t have a kitchen, or they are living out of their cars. We understand life’s circumstances and do not ask questions. There are no requirements to receive a meal from us.” Curran shares a recent effort of the soup kitchen resulting in 210 meals prepared for direct distribution at Stone Springs Hospital, 200 meals for Loudoun Hunger Relief, and 110 meals for Tree of Life Ministries’ community dinners in Sterling and Leesburg.

Something else that sets them apart from a traditional soup kitchen is their menu. Go online to the “Need Help” section and you will see a full menu for the weekly distributions. Despite the “soup kitchen” in their name, it’s not just soup they serve. Though patrons won’t find fried food on the menu, they will find dishes that use produce from local farms, including JK Community Farms out of Purcellville. Meals for May include a turkey wrap with chips, Mexican chorizo rice, meat with potatoes and rice, and cheesy ground beef pasta.

Like most nonprofits, Dulles South Soup Kitchen could not operate without the help of volunteers, donors, and corporate partners. On April 20, the organization hosted its first annual “Race Against Hunger” fundraiser at the Middleburg Spring Races with VSTI-Partners as the premium sponsor in the Winner’s Circle.

In addition to cash donations, DSSK runs on food donations. Food items that are usually most needed include pasta, rice, canned vegetables, canned fruit, tuna, tomato sauce, oil, mayonnaise, and other condiments. To find out more about how you can help, visit ML

Published in the May 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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