Home Institution

Washington University in Saint Louis

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


This study uses a narrative approach to explore the role of soup kitchens in the predominantly Coloured and English-speaking Wentworth community. Many of the community’s churches1 and non-profit organizations host soup kitchens regularly, rotating so that there is a meal available each day of the week.

Qualitative data was gathered through volunteering with the soup kitchens as a participant observer and having conversations and open-ended interviews with soup kitchen guests and hosts. Institutional context was provided by interviews with the Convener of the War Room and the Ward Councillor, and representatives of three non-profits in the community. In order to explore other feeding schemes, interviews were conducted with representatives from three schools which provide meals for learners.

The data was combined to synthesize a multifaceted picture of the soup kitchen network in Wentworth—how it came to be, what it has become, and where it could go. Poverty and unemployment plague Wentworth, fueling an immediate need for the hunger relief the soup kitchens provide. There were stories of gratefulness and hope for a future where the soup kitchens are no longer needed, tinged with a desire to go beyond merely alleviating hunger by addressing underlying issues through empowerment via skills development.


African Languages and Societies | Food Security | Food Studies | Health Economics | Inequality and Stratification | Other Public Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology



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