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More Than Bread

Ethnography of a Soup Kitchen

Written by Irene Glasser

Publication Year: 2010

More Than Bread examines life in the dining room of the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen, located in Middle City in a New England state. What happens when one hundred guests, which include single mothers, drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, and the chronically unemployed, representing diverse age groups and ethnicities, come together in the dining room for several hours each day? Irene Glasser challenges the popular assumption that soup kitchens function primarily to provide food for the hungry by refocusing our attention on the social aspects of the dining room. The soup kitchen offers a model of a de-professionalized, nonclinical, nurturing setting that is in contrast to the traditional human services agency.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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pp. viii


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pp. ix-x

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1. The Contemporary Soup Kitchen

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pp. 1-13

It was snowing the day of George's memorial service. Most of the twenty or so people present were from the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen. The service was held in the small chapel above the soup kitchen, in Saint Mary's Church. George had died the previous week, and his obituary consisted of two sentences: one announcing his death, the ...

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2. A Historical Perspective

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pp. 14-22

Soup kitchens have moved from the popular image of storefront dining rooms with steaming vats, serving an elderly, alcoholic population, to a pervasive movement throughout the United States, serving a diverse group of men, women, and children. There now appear to be more soup kitchens in the United States than there...

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3. The Tabernacle Soup Kitchen

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pp. 23-33

The Tabernacle Soup Kitchen in Middle City is one of forty soup kitchens in a northeastern state. It is located in the basement of Saint Mary's Church, and serves a hot noontime meal, six days a week. Saint Mary's Church is Protestant in denomination and has a congregation of approximately 250 members. The parishioners are ...

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4. Field Study Methods

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pp. 34-48

The soup kitchen is one of the few places in modem life where questions are not asked, folders and charts are not kept, and where there are no eligibility requirements. The challenge of field research within a soup kitchen is to develop methods for gathering information in a manner that is compatible with the nonthreatening...

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5. Profile of the Guest Population

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pp. 49-68

In spite of the eighties renaissance of soup kitchens throughout the United States, there is little documentation of who comes to a soup kitchen and why. In an effort to provide accurate, reliable Soup Kitchen of Saint Mary's Church in Middle City, Connecticut. The first survey of the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen was a brief, self ...

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6. Loneliness

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pp. 69-85

Loneliness in life appears to be a driving force in bringing people to the soup kitchen. Loneliness may be conceptualized as a feeling of apartness due to a lack in the quantity or quality of social relationships, which results in an unpleasant feeling and a need for others (Peplau and Perlman 1982). The lives of the guests have often ...

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7. An Ambience of Acceptance

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pp. 86-99

In addition to the general sociability found within the dining room, guests of the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen find a haven of acceptance for themselves that contrasts sharply with the aversion with which they are viewed by much of the rest of society. This chapter is devoted to exploring the atmosphere of acceptance and its impact...

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8. Social Networks and Social Support

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pp. 100-117

As the last two chapters have shown, the dining room of the soup kitchen provides an atmosphere of sociability for the lonely and acceptance for the rejected. For some, however, the soup kitchen goes beyond these functions and offers its guests the opportunity to affiliate with each other and form social relationships. These ...

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9. Self-Help in the Dining Room: Guests as Counselors

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pp. 118-137

In order to explore the soup kitchen and more fully realize its potential for self-help, three pilot projects were conducted using the indigenous leadership of the guests. But before describing the soup kitchen self-help projects, let us review some of the experiences of indigenous help within other cultural...

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10. Staff Philosophy and the Concept of Ministry

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pp. 138-149

As the preceding chapters have demonstrated, the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen creates an atmosphere wherein the guests' desires for sociability, for acceptance, and for some degree of human alliance are satisfied. Does this atmosphere, so rare for the underclass who are excluded from work places and from stable family...

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11. Concluding Thoughts

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pp. 150-161

What are we to say finally about this resurgence of soup kitchens amidst the general affluence of North American society in the latter part of the twentieth century? Are we as a people expressing some basic desire to return to the food sharing of an earlier era of human history when hunters and gatherers divided their meat and fruits ...

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12. Epilogue

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pp. 163-167

In the twenty-two years since I wrote More Than Bread, soup kitchens have become a more permanent fixture in almost every city or small town in the United States. By 1999, the Urban Institute, in their survey of homelessness assistance programs (Burt et al. 1999) documented the existence of at least 3,500 soup kitchens...


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pp. 169-182


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pp. 183-187

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383930
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356187

Page Count: 187
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Soup kitchens -- United States.
  • Poor -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Poverty -- Psychological aspects.
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