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On World Disco Soup Day, Food Security Advocates Collaborate to Offer Free Meals

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A Salvation Supper - COURTESY OF NICK GAMBILL
  • Courtesy Of Nick Gambill
  • A Salvation Supper

Food waste and climate change are global problems that people worldwide are working to solve. On World Disco Soup Day, thousands of them add fun to the proverbial pot.

Nick Gambill of Salvation Suppers has teamed up with Slow Food Vermont and Salvation Farms to host Vermont's World Disco Soup Day this Saturday, May 7.

Accompanied by lively music, volunteers will chop, slice and dice food that might otherwise go to waste to make a massive batch of Puerto Rican stew, Gambill said. From 2 to 5 p.m., anyone who wants to help can stop by Burlington's Salvation Army community kitchen. Dinner will be served from 5 to 6 p.m.

The seeds of World Disco Soup Day were sown in Berlin in 2014 when volunteers cooked what they called a "protest soup" to draw attention to food waste. The event soon caught on and is now celebrated by people on five continents, according to the Slow Food website. This year, World Disco Soup Day organizers aim to raise awareness of how eating a more plant-based diet can reduce people's carbon footprints.

Gambill, 21, of Burlington, a cook at A Single Pebble, launched the free meals program Salvation Suppers in 2020 in collaboration with local chefs and the Burlington Salvation Army. "[Our goal is] really delicious food being served for free," Gambill said.

Every Monday, he cooks and serves free dinner to 25 to 30 community members, on average. The menu has included everything from South Carolina-style tomato soup and cheddar biscuits to freshly made pasta and grilled chicken Caesar salad.

Gambill said he aims to make quality food more accessible; he believes a lot of the best food in Vermont is behind a steep price wall.

"I believe change is possible from the inside out," he said. "Our goal is to rehabilitate a preexisting [Salvation Army] free meals program and create a stronger support system for the community."

Slow Food Vermont, a nonprofit dedicated to building community through "good, clean and fair food," first brought World Disco Soup Day to Burlington in 2020 as a virtual event. Participants connected via Zoom and cooked in their own homes.

"It is a great way to reduce the impact on our environment," said Francesca Arato, cochair of Slow Food Vermont.

Gambill contacted Slow Food Vermont earlier this year to explore working in partnership. "Slow Food has always been in my mind [as] a benchmark for where I want to be as a cook," he said.

Arato and others at Slow Food Vermont suggested that Gambill collaborate on this year's World Disco Soup Day. They hope the event will generate enough soup to be frozen and served at Salvation Suppers for weeks to come, Arato said.

All food donations for this year's event are from Salvation Farms, which typically provides the produce for Salvation Suppers. Salvation Farms is donating between 400 and 500 pounds of less-than-perfect potatoes, beets, carrots and cabbage, Arato explained.

Other event sponsors are Trenchers Farmhouse in Lyndonville, which will provide vegetable-chopping safety lessons, and the University of Vermont's Slow Food chapter, which will spin a disco-inspired playlist.

Organizers hope 60 to 70 people volunteer at Saturday's event, Arato said. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own knife, peeler and cutting board for chopping vegetables. Once the stew is simmering, volunteers will be invited to join other community members in enjoying the meal.

Volunteers may register at slowfoodvermont.org or head to the Salvation Army at 64 Main Street in Burlington between 2 and 5 p.m. on the day of the event.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Hot Stuff"