Soup Kitchens

On October 29, 1929 the U.S. stock market crashed and created wide spread public panic. People quickly lost a very large amount of their money that was in the stock market and the whole country quickly spiraled into the Great Depression. Hoover quickly began to realize that families wouldn't be able to make ends meat, so he told the Government to create soup kitchens and bread lines. Which gave the poor food for free when they didn't have a cent to spare. Although Hoover started the soup kitchens some thought that it just wasn't enough and resented him for it. They were needed a lot more than some think, because about twenty-five percent of people were out of their jobs.

Where did Soup Kitchens Begin?

Soup kitchens were in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit by the government, churches and religious groups, and even the famous gangster Al Capone. Capone's soup kitchen was made to clean up the gangster's bad reputation, and served three meals a day to ensure that all who had lost jobs would be able to get a meal. The first soup kitchen was in Detroit, Michigan by the Capuchin Services Center and was opened on November 2, 1929, which was only a few days after the crash. The volunteers working there served somewhere from 1,500 to 3,000 people a day in the ridiculously long lines. And if anyone was out in the country they would have to go into town to get some food for themselves.

Soup Kitchens
Men Waiting in Line for a Bowl of Soup

What is the Great Depression?

The Great Depression started on October 29, 1929, and lasted until 1932 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into power. While the great depression was going on Hoover tried to do many things but could never get the people's support. Some say that it took until 1940 (when the second World War began) that the United States came back up to a good economic status. The poor suffered the most, considering they had very little before the Depression there was little hope for them. Some made it through the long Depression, but others had no food, no heat, and sometimes no homes. When that happened, people made forts in Central Park and called them "Hoovervilles", after the president who they thought did this all to them. To aid the poor and hungry states and cities made soup kitchens and breadlines where they could get a free meal.

Herbert Hoover's Creation of Soup Kitchens

"Prosperity, is just around the corner", is something that Hoover said quite often. This is because he wanted to reassure the people that we would get through this, but some thought "Where is this corner and when is it coming?". Things got pretty bad and Hoover wanted to find more ways to help those in need. He decided to make soup kitchens and breadlines, which gave food to those who had no money and were starving. But the government weren't the only people who had soup kitchens, or something along those lines. Churches and missionaries often had them, and surprisingly enough the famous gangster Al Capone had one in Chicago as a publicity stunt.

Need for Soup Kitchens

The need for soup kitchens was so large because of the high percentage of the unemployed (about 13 million in 1933). Parents could barely feed themselves, and then they had to feed their children. People tried to get jobs where ever they could and some failed, unable to pay for food. So when soup kitchens came into play some families were saved from starvation. There was a cry for help and everyone helped by making soup kitchens.


The Great Depression was terrible, but could have been much worse with out soup kitchens. Not only would people not have food, they would starve and most likely not make it through about 13 years. Although Hoover wasn't liked very much he should be appreciated for the making of soup kitchens, which some could say was the only thing keeping America going. Soup Kitchens were the fuel in all the almost empty hearts of Americans, that kept them going and made sure they never gave up.


-Mr. Larson's Powerpoints
-Garraty, John A. The Story of America. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1994.
-"Great Depression". Gale, a part of Cengage Learning. 14 December 2008. <>
-"Depression-era Soup Kitchens". NW Travel Magazine Online. 14 December 2008. <>
Old Woman at a Soup Kitchen