University groups ladle up soup to help students with food insecurity

Dalhousie’s Loaded Ladle, the King's Galley and King’s Food Security Initiative join to offer free soup to students

4 min read
A staff member is serving a bowl of soup to a smiling student.
caption Libby Schade, left, enjoys being able to offer free soup as it is “healthy” and “comforting.”
Hannah Veinot

Every two weeks, students from the Dalhousie University and University of King’s College communities line up in the King’s Galley to grab a nice cup of steaming soup. 

They come in waves until the soup is gone. Many of the students can be seen smiling receiving their soup. 

On Wednesday this week, staff at the coffee shop, commonly referred to as the Galley, spooned out 39 bowls, one of their biggest servings to date. 

In its pilot phase, the free soup initiative has been successful in the eyes of the organizers and has had positive feedback from students.

Libby Schade, the Galley’s community engagement manager, said a main goal of the student-owned coffee shop is “to promote food security in students.” With both personal and business ideas in mind, Schade was the “catalyst” in bringing free soup to the Galley this year. 

She said it can be hard for students to find “nourishing and affordable” food. 

“It’s just really important to me that students can have those options,” she said. 

The free soup on the menu Wednesday was a hearty vegetable medley, with gluten-free noodles and flavourful spices.

At the beginning of the school year, the Galley was operating at a limited capacity to pay debt accumulated during COVID and couldn’t do this project on its own. However, staff reached out to the Loaded Ladle and the King’s Food Security Initiative to see how they could help. 

The Loaded Ladle is a student-run group that offers free meals on the Dalhousie campus and does outreach in the HRM community. 

King’s Food Security Initiative, a student group helping combat food insecurity, gets together with Loaded Ladle staff at their kitchen to prepare the soup. It is then picked up by the Galley to be able to serve it at their location.

Someone holds out a bowl of vegetable noodle soup for the camera.
caption Food from the Loaded Ladle is plant-based and they usually try to offer gluten-free options, which is what they were able to do with the latest soup.
Hannah Veinot

Lili Gardner-Elmer is the co-lead of communications for the King’s Food Security Initiative. 

The Loaded Ladle workers “have the resources, they have the experience. So, we’ve just been providing volunteers, ’cause that’s a really hard thing to consistently make sure is happening every single week,” said Gardner-Elmer. 

According to the HungerCount 2023 report by Food Banks Canada, 19.1 per cent of people served at food banks in Nova Scotia were between the age of 18-30 years old. This is up from 17.9 per cent that was reported in 2022. 

The Loaded Ladle has also seen an increase in attendance for their servings this year. 

“So, ever since COVID, it has skyrocketed, like, over-doubled. Our average is probably about 350. Sometimes 400,” said Allie Lum, operations and finance co-ordinator at the Loaded Ladle.

Lum said that there are also early discussions taking place with other universities on how they can bring “student-run food services to their campus.”

A Galley staff member ladles steaming soup into a bowl.
caption The soup was steaming hot when being served to people.
Hannah Veinot

“I think a lot of what the Loaded Ladle does and hopefully what the soup does as well, kind of, is removing the stigma around needing to ask for help and needing to get food from food bank things or food bank adjacent,” said Schade. 

While the Galley is not a food bank, it aims to promote food security in any way that they can so that people remove the stigma from needing help. 

“And I’m glad that we have a chance to remove it even just a little bit. And just to help a little bit. It’s always the goal,” said Schade.  

The soup has been well received by the students, according to organizers. After a recent serving, Gardner-Elmer said the King’s Food Security Initiative got a few text messages from friends that said “everyone was talking about how excited they were, how much they loved the soup.” 

All three student groups would like to continue and even given the chance, increase the frequency they are offering this service. Conversations are in the works about how they might be able to achieve this in the new year.

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About the author

Hannah Veinot

Hannah is a fourth-year journalism student from Dartmouth. She enjoys storytelling and getting to meet interesting people.

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