No greater need exists for the homeless than a safe place to sleep and food to eat. If your city has a monumental percentage of homeless, and you have decided to open a soup kitchen, you are doing the right thing. However, you will need a lot of equipment. Here is a list of what you will need just to get started and where you can get it.
Stainless Steel Stock Pots
A soup kitchen is not a soup kitchen if you do not have several stainless steel stock pots. The stock pots can hold two to three gallons of soup (or five quarts, if you want something smaller to reheat leftover batches of soup). It is a good idea to make at least three soups a day, and at least two pots each of the most popular soups. Since you will be making soup daily, you will need at least twenty stock pots in rotation so that you are not pot-less when it comes time to make some soup for the day.
Ladles, Ladles and More Ladles
Ladles are needed for serving the soup, of course. However, you may not be aware of the fact that ladles are also used in the kitchen for tasting, which then cannot go back into a pot. Ladles are used for stirring, and are often put down on counters after stirring, at which point they cannot go back into the pot either. The best ladles are cool to the touch acrylic handles that do not melt. These you can readily hang on the edges of the stock pots and not get burned every time you pick the ladle up again. It is a good idea to have as many ladles as you have stock pots, and then some.
Commercial Baking Pans
If you want to serve some corn bread with the soup, or a treat (e.g., cake, a brownie, etc.), then you will need commercial baking pans too. These massive pans can bake all kinds of things, from french fries to desserts. Ten baking pans are a good start. You may find that you need more as time goes on and more homeless come to your soup kitchen to get a bite.
If you plan to serve other hot foods, such as a vegetable or a meat for those who do not want soup, you will need chafing dishes. These are dishes designed to keep hot foods hot (and keep food inspectors off your back). You may not use these often, but it is good to have them on hand. Four to six chafing dishes is enough.
Various Kitchen Utensils Beyond Ladles
When you finally get your soup kitchen started, you may be very surprised to learn that you will need lots of other kitchen utensils beyond ladles. Get two of every kind of utensil, even if you think you will never use it or need it. You can buy these from the same commercial kitchen equipment suppliers (e.g., Vollrath equipment suppliers) as the rest of your soup kitchen equipment. Then you can set up your kitchen with just a single shipment instead of several shipments.
How to Get What You Need
There are commercial kitchen suppliers, as well as companies that manufacture the equipment. Some manufacturers will allow you to order directly from them, while others will refer you to the kitchen suppliers and retail stores that sell their equipment. There are also several brand-name kitchen equipment manufacturers, so you may want to do a little research before you begin buying your equipment. Whenever you can, it helps to order everything at once from one supplier or manufacturer to avoid expenses for your soup kitchen (since you are running a non-profit community service).
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