Upcycling & Sustainability: The Birth of soulMUCH

SoulMUCH has a funny “birth story”. Both Krissy and I are servers at a restaurant here in San Diego. It was here that we were able to witness first hand the enormous amount of food being wasted every night. Disclaimer: the food waste is not the leftover scraps on customers plates. No. The food waste we are talking about is literally food that big volume restaurants over supply on and must throw out at the end of the night. This food is untouched, nutrient dense, and high quality.

One night when Krissy and I were closing, the chef was about to throw away an entire pot of brown rice and quinoa mix. As I saw him approaching the trash can I screamed, “WAIT!! DON’T THROW IT AWAY! I’LL TAKE IT!! ” He looks at me with a half smile like I was crazy. What was I going to do with an enormous restaurant size pot of grains?

I insisted he leave it for me and I will take care of it. He giggled and probably thought I was out of my mind but he left it on the counter for me.

To be honest, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do with it.. I just knew that I could not watch him throw all that precious viable food in the trash while there were people right around the block holding up cardboard box signs saying they were hungry and homeless.

Krissy and I decided to wrap the grains and take it home. That next day we headed down to 17th street in downtown (one of the most densely homeless populated areas of San Diego).

Parked our car. Excited and nervous, we put our big girl pants on and we headed towards the ‘row’ that a majority of them have their tents set up on the sidewalks.

Distributing the grains to the people first hand taught us a lot. It was a personal experience. It was a life changing experience. One gentleman’s story really resonated with me. When we walked up to him offering some brown rice quinoa he began telling us how he used to be a chef at a small local cafe he owned. The quinoa was a reminder of a dish he used to make: Saffron quinoa with dried cherries and almonds. His dream was to be a chef and he was so happy with where he was. It wasn’t until he got news that his wife had cancer and he had to sell everything he owned including his restaurant in order to pay for her treatment bills. Soon after his wife passed away. This left him homeless and depressed. The quinoa that we handed him brought so much more than a full tummy and tears to his eyes. It brought a sense of pride and sparked the encouragement for him to get back in the restaurant industry.

Another man walked up to us asking us for some grains. I remember his beautiful smile and grateful words. He told us that today was his 7 year old daughters birthday. He was trying to save money for a few days to buy her a cake but he unfortunately did not manage to save enough. He told us that the grains will be his gift to his daughter. Before he left he said, “A simple ‘thank you’ does not do justice how grateful I am. Bless you.”

It is so easy to turn a blind eye when we are walking down the street and see a homeless person because we almost create a false illusion in our minds that they are completely different from us. In reality these are all people who have stories. These are all people who have gotten in an unfortunate situation that required more than they could to get themselves out of.

Little did we know that this experience was going to become the pillar of soulMUCH. This experience was what created the foundation of soulMUCH’s core values. From that moment we made it our goal to bridge the gap between food waste and food insecure.