By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
Just 18 months ago, Karen Nochimowski launched her cooking blog mommachef.com offering recipes made with six ingredients prepped in under six minutes. The blog grew to 80,000 followers before she realized there was a larger purpose to building a community online.
This Deerfield mother of three boys saw a need to give back and help the less fortunate in her local community. She consulted with Jewish community social service leaders and decided to open a weekly soup kitchen that would serve as the philanthropic arm of her blog.
She partnered with Congregation K.I.N.S. to help the surrounding West Rogers Park neighborhood provide free meals to the elderly, unemployed, underemployed, poor and homeless.
Beginning on Oct. 16, Momma Chef’s Soup Kitchen will open its doors at Congregation K.I.N.S., 2800 W. North Shore Ave. Every Tuesday, the soup kitchen will offer a free, four-course healthy and nutritious meal to all who come through the doors. The guests will leave with a brown bag lunch for the next day.
“I was pretty determined,” Nochimowski said of her idea. “I wanted it to be open to everyone not only to the underprivileged in the Jewish community. I asked Congregation K.I.N.S. if they would partner with me. I would run it and they were just ecstatic at the idea.”
Nochimowski is bringing her talent for serving delicious family meals with little effort to a soup kitchen. With no overhead other than the cost of food, she is proud to say the soup kitchen is an all-volunteer effort. More than a dozen volunteers are needed to prepare and serve meals each night. Food costs add up to $700 to serve 80 to 100 people weekly.
The kosher soup kitchen at K.I.N.S. joins Beth Emet’s Soup Kitchen, which serves over 100 people in Evanston on Wednesday nights. The ARK Chicago’s food pantry distributes kosher food for approximately 2,000 families.
The first meal is Nochimowski’s honey mustard chicken with brown rice, a salad, soup, bread and dessert.
She started a fundraiser through her blog two months ago and has raised $30,000 in tax deductible donations. “Every single dollar is going toward the food,” she said.
Children are among the scheduled volunteers and the minimum age is eight. “I saw what this did for my son,” said Nochimowski, who belongs to Moriah Congregation in Deerfield. “He got so much more out of it than anything he would have given. I think it’s important for children to be involved hands on like this.”
Rabbi Leonard Mantanky of K.I.N.S. said he can’t speak highly enough of the “desire of so many people to help others and what that says about the community’s sense of care for others.
“This was Karen’s brainchild and she has shepherded this from beginning to launch and beyond,” Matanky said.
According to a mission statement, Momma Chef’s Soup Kitchen “is sustained by committed and passionate volunteers and also by the generous contribution of donors. The Soup Kitchen truly brings to life the Jewish value of tikkun olam—repair of the world.”
“Thank G-d we are a people that jumps at the chance to perform mitzvot and do things that are good for other people,” Matanky said.
To sign up as a volunteer, go online at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/5080b45aba72fa4f49-mommachefkins. To donate to food costs—about $4 a meal—visit https://mommachef.com/soup-kitchen/ or email email@example.com.