Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Local chefs donate meals to Soul Fridge during holiday season

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Daily file photo by Saul Pink
Participating chefs will prepare a total of 25 meals for the Soul Fridge which they will distribute during the holiday season.

The Soul Fridge, one of four fixtures of Evanston Community Fridges and standing outside of Soul & Smoke, will be filled with new meals this holiday season. Twelve chefs from Evanston and Chicago will drop off meals in the fridge from Nov. 22 until the end of the year. 

According to a news release from Soul & Smoke and Evanston Community Fridges, the need for food supplies “increases during the winter and the holidays,” so restaurant owners Heather Bublick and D’Andre Carter wanted to collaborate with other chefs to address the issue.

Bublick reached out to Sarah Stegner, chef and co-owner of Northbrook’s Prairie Grass Cafe, to bring together local chefs to help fill the Soul Fridge. 

“We do what we can, and we put food in it daily. But we can’t, ourselves, stock it as often as it needs,” Bublick said. “As the winter approaches and the holiday season hits, the need certainly increases, so having chefs come together to help us fill it made the most sense to me.”

Evanston Community Fridges is a mutual aid network that provides access to free food for residents throughout Evanston. 

Participating chefs this holiday season hail from many different restaurants, including Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, Verzênay, a French bakery, and Saigon Sisters, a Vietnamese restaurant. 

Stegner said that chefs will prepare a total of 25 meals, which they will distribute throughout the holiday season. 

The meals will largely reflect dishes from the respective restaurants. Stegner already dropped off a meal in the fridge — a turkey burger with sweet potatoes, apple slaw, cabbage, and cranberry sauce from different local farms. 

“I feel like there’s so much need, even in our own community, that when we can contribute, it’s important that we take action,” Stegner said. “As a chef, feeding people is really what we do.”

Many of the participating chefs are members of Chicago Chefs Cook, a nonprofit group that unifies Chicago’s culinary community to provide humanitarian aid. The organization has hosted a number of outreach events in response to international crises, including the wildfires in Maui and earthquakes in Syria and Turkey.

The Soul Fridge is the only community fridge in Evanston’s 5th Ward, where in 2022, more than 94% of residents lived further than half a mile from a large grocery store, according to city data. The fridge is near Connections for the Homeless, and Bublick said it gets used often by residents of the shelter. 

According to Bublick, Soul & Smoke started providing food to the larger Evanston community during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the restaurant identified families that were food insecure and sent out between 200 and 300 meals a day. The restaurant collaborated with Evanston Community Fridges to open the Soul Fridge in 2021.

Anna Grant-Bolton, one of the lead outreach organizers for Evanston Community Fridges, wrote in an email that the fridge is used multiple times each day. She added that both Soul & Smoke and community members fill the fridge every day –– but sometimes the food is taken within an hour. 

“The Soul Fridge is especially critical for community members with food needs who don’t have access to transportation,” Grant-Bolton wrote. “Additionally, the Soul Fridge is in Evanston’s historically Black ward, which has long been disinvested in. The Soul Fridge functions as a hub of food, care and community support for a neighborhood that has too long been overlooked.”

Stegner said donating food to places like the Soul Fridge is part of her duty as a chef.

“Restaurants are a place that are dependent on our communities, and we thrive because of our communities,” Stegner said. “It’s an opportunity for us to give back and to look for ways to improve our communities, and make sure that everyone is taken care of.”

Email: [email protected]

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