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Cape Town- The Arch at St George’s Cathedral, one of Cape Town’s oldest and largest soup kitchens, will serve its last meal on Thursday.
The Arch’s co-ordinator, Mary van Blerk, said the soup kitchen, started by two parishioners in the mid-1970s, served meals to about 300 people every weekday, but had run out of funds. The director of The Homestead, Paul Hooper, said the Arch had provided for those on the margins of society, from street children and prostitutes, to refugees and people just released from prison.
“The Arch soup kitchen... played a key role for so many years in reducing the vulnerability of our weakest members of society by providing a warm meal and a safe space when there is nowhere else to turn,” he wrote on Monday in a letter to church leadership.
Van Blerk said the project had relied on donations from parishioners and supporters, and had no choice but to close once these dried up and volunteers became more difficult to find.
“It cost quite a lot to run,” said Van Blerk. “We have three employees and we had to pay for the soup mix, bread and ingredients.”
Until the beginning of this year it also received a donation from the Community Chest, but Van Blerk
said this ended because the project wasn’t a registered non-profit organisation.
On weekdays between 9am and lunchtime the project provided a meal of a mug of soup – usually beef and onion – and three slices of bread, for R1, or a simple mug of soup for 40c. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays there was a special meal of soya mince and vegetable stew with rice which cost R1.50 in addition to the soup and bread.
Van Blerk said businesses also donated food to the project, which they gave away for free. She said people without money would be asked to perform “small tasks”, such as sweeping the floor or collecting mugs, in return for a meal.
The soup kitchen has been operating from St George’s Cathedral since the mid-1970s.
The project continued to be run by volunteers until the early 1990s when it was taken over by the St George’s Cathedral Foundation, a charity that employed three staff to work in the Arch.