Prairie Moon sells Ukrainian soups, donates all proceeds to support citizens


Ava Mandoli/The Daily Northwestern

Each week, Prairie Moon selects a different Ukrainian soup recipe and donates 100% of the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine.

Avani Kalra, Audience Engagement Editor

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Prairie Moon restaurant owner Robert Strom found himself wondering how he could support Ukrainian citizens. With the restaurant cash-strapped due to the pandemic, his solution was soup.

Each week for the last month, Prairie Moon has selected a different Ukrainian soup recipe and donated 100% of its proceeds to medical aid program Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine. Serving its first bowl of cabbage roll soup on March 10, the restaurant has sold out each weekend, Strom said.

“Food is a wonderful vehicle to be able to provide assistance,” he said. “Everybody needs to be nourished, and learning about another country’s cuisine is a form of spiritual nurturing as well.”

As the initiative nears its fourth week, Strom said he expects the restaurant will surpass its goal of donating $3000. Though he’s not sure how much the restaurant has raised so far, Strom said he is excited to update the cumulative total after this weekend.

Prairie Moon chose Doctors Without Borders intentionally. Strom initially considered nonprofits like World Central Kitchen, but said his wife is a registered nurse who plans to eventually work for Doctors Without Borders.

“It’s something that’s very close to her heart,” Strom said. “That thread paired with seeing just how needed these organizations are, not just at this time but at all times, really drove our decision.”

According to Strom, The restaurant’s initiative has also inspired patrons to donate to the cause.

Strom said one Ukrainian patron visited the restaurant to thank workers for honoring Ukrainian food as a vehicle for aid.

“She came in one day about the soup, and we were out. She told us she didn’t mind, she wanted to make a straight donation,” Strom said. “She had family in Ukraine generations ago, she was Ukrainian-speaking and she wrote a check for $500 towards this effort.”

Executive Chef Tony Luna said he has learned about traditional Ukrainian cuisine through the restaurant’s fundraising efforts. Prairie Moon’s kitchen centers its soups on ingredients common in Ukrainian cuisine, including cabbage, legumes and kielbasa.

He said learning these recipes has helped him connect with the Ukrainian community and given him a sense of purpose in a “helpless situation.”

“We are in this business to share cuisine and make people happy,” Luna said. “Food brings people together. Crowds form to taste and gather around food. It’s really a great way to honor the culture and help out in a way that we can.”

McCormick sophomore Sonya Voloboi, who moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2010, said she has found food connects her with other Ukrainian students and her home country during a difficult time.

She has hosted bake sales on campus as part of Northwestern Ukrainian student fundraising efforts, selling traditional desserts and candies purchased in Ukranian Village in Chicago.

“Food is a big part of our culture, and everybody’s,” she said. “There’s a lot of identity that’s tied to the food that we eat, and it’s an easy way to allow others to share within your identity and your culture.”

Prairie Moon has never had leftovers of their Ukrainian soups, Strom said. The restaurant’s regulars, in particular, have consistently added soups to their orders and bought enough to share with friends, according to Strom.

“The outpouring of support and appreciation and real care is extremely cathartic and very, very well worth it,” he said. “It’s been quite successful, and I’m very proud and happy about that.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avanidkalra

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