Providence-based non-profit and soup kitchen Amos House provides food, housing and other vital social services to Rhode Island residents in need.
About 70,000 Rhode Islanders live in poverty, and this year many more residents are facing food insecurity. Each year, the team at Amos House serves more than 130,000 balanced and delicious meals, making it the largest soup kitchen in the state. At Gotham Greens, we support Amos House’s crucial work through regular donations and by volunteering.
At the onset of the pandemic, Amos House added evening meals to the schedule, served all meals to-go, and delivered food to emergency shelters and tent encampments. The organization is keeping their soup kitchen community safe by supplying masks and hand sanitizer to all who visit.
We spoke to a few friends on the Amos House team about how they shifted their efforts this year.
Tell us a little about your organization.
Eileen Hayes, CEO: Amos House is the largest soup kitchen in the state of Rhode Island, and a social service agency that provides services for folks that are homeless, hungry and in need of support. We serve between 500-800 a day. Most of our food comes from generous partners like Gotham Greens. We also have housing: from a 90-day treatment program, to permanent supported housing for men and women who are homeless, and training programs to help people move from homeless to housed – and instability to stability.
How did you get started here?
Chef Doug Spikes, Kitchen Manager: I’ve been here for 17 years. I’ve loved to work with food since I was 8 years old. I heard about Amos House and had the opportunity to take the culinary arts course. I graduated in 2006 and became a dishwasher, then worked my way up to assistant chef and then to manager. I love working in this kitchen because I get to meet different people – it’s very diverse. I love feeding the community, and I love the people I work with. We’re all good people here, trying to do good work – I’m just grateful to have a job in this crisis.
We’ve been partnered for Gotham Greens for a while now. They give us beautiful greens that are hydroponically grown. We love to do a salad every day because it’s a good source of vitamins. They have fresh ingredients that are locally grown – and benefit everybody.
How have things shifted since COVID-19?
Chef Michael McCarthy: When we were first made aware of Covid-19, we really had to scramble quickly. That meant shutting down the dining room, and our kitchen was pretty quiet. In pre-Covid conditions, our kitchen would be bustling with volunteers and our guests would be waiting in line to enjoy their food. Now it’s about 4-5 of us serving the same amount of meals, every day. The other change is the way our guests receive their food. Prior to Covid-19, they were able to come and enjoy their food in a dining room that sits 100 people. Now we’re giving out all our food in to-go containers served out the back door of the kitchen. It’s still hot, nutritious and healthy – typically a lunch with a salad, soup and dessert.
Jerome Hines: I used to work in the dining room, cleaning and helping everybody. Now we’re outside due to Covid-19, serving people, keeping order and stability and trying to get everything done outside.
What have you learned in the past few months/years of operating?
Patience… and how to work efficiently with a mask on!
We are so honored to work with and learn from your team, and be able to support your mission.
Chef Michael McCarthy: Our relationship started in a really interesting way. I was driving down Harris Ave. about a year and a half ago looking at this huge greenhouse being constructed and thought: “What is this place? Why are they building a huge greenhouse on a brownfield site?” When I found out it was Gotham Greens, I sent an email over to New York. I came across Nicole, the Director of Partnerships at Gotham Greens. Nicole is from Providence and volunteered at Amos House in high school, so there was an instant connection from her experience to what we do every day. It was a go from the beginning – never an issue of what we needed vs. what they can provide. They always provide more than we need. Our guests previously did not receive a fresh salad every day because we couldn’t afford it, and now we can. They love the fact that it’s Gotham Greens because the greenhouse is in their neighborhood and likely near their family and friends. It’s been a wonderful relationship – whenever I need greens, I message my buddy Will (distribution at Gotham Greens) and the next day the greens are ready for us. It’s a wonderful relationship that’s fostered deeper relationships in the agriculture community in RI as well. Many more farms are participating in the summer by providing amazing produce. It’s now important that we serve a beautiful salad each day.
It’s been quite a year and your team has rallied to support our local Providence community. What are you thankful for this holiday season?
Reggie Felder: Being in a condition to help other people. And to have time to understand more about myself. I’m really just thankful to help.
Chef Michael McCarthy: To be able to provide an abundance of food to our guests. Through Covid-19, we haven’t missed a beat. We’re still providing healthy, nutritious food to a vulnerable population – some wonderful folks who just happen to be homeless, hungry or food insecure. I’m also thankful to work with an amazing group of people here at Amos House. I’ve run a lot of kitchens in my 35-year career, but this is the most happy, successful and dedicated kitchen I’ve ever worked in.
Follow along here to learn more about what the Amos House team has been up to and find out how you can get involved.