Every night across Melbourne St Vincent de Paul Society’s Soup Vans serve FareShare soup to marginalised people struggling to access nutritious food.

As the Vinnies Soup Vans tour boarding and rooming houses, commission homes and public sites where rough sleepers gather, people hold out pots, bowls, mugs and paper cups for healthy, comforting soup.

FareShare kitchen manager Crickette joined Vinnies Footscray Soup Van volunteers to see how FareShare soup is received out West. With Soup Van President Lina and fellow volunteer Oliver (left below with Crickette), she toured the Footscray area knocking on doors where welfare agencies, Vinnies and other services have identified people at risk of food insecurity.

“People love the soup,” said Lina. “We used to make soup ourselves but FareShare saves us about three hours prep each night. It’s fantastic for us to have 100 per cent good quality. FareShare meals are healthy and provide the nutrition the people we serve cannot provide for themselves.”

Each week, FareShare cooks 110 litres of soup for Vinnies Footscray and has stepped up production to cook another 450 litres for the Fitzroy Soup Van. Tonight in Footscray, sweet potato and red lentil is in the thermos flasks.

The first stops are door to door calls. For some isolated people, the Soup Van service may offer the only human interaction of the week. The Soup Van volunteers also give out sandwiches, pies, milk and fresh produce. Even though it’s a warm night, most people opt for soup which Crickette pours from a thermos.

According to Lina (left), people often say that the soup reminds them of their childhood when Mum or Nanna served them hot soup.

The Soup Van moves on to a boarding house where a group of men gather around an outdoor table. The food promotes comradery and everyone appears to receive a boost from the visit.

The final stop is Whitten Oval, where about 20 people, including a young pregnant woman, are waiting in the dark for the Soup Van to arrive. Tables are put out and food is served to an orderly queue. The soup and hot pies are winners.

One of the women says tomato soup is her favourite. A thoughtful man makes the comment that he “hasn’t always lived like this”.

“Seeing people struggle with life is always very hard, but knowing that the food we cook is received with such genuine thanks, makes what we do at FareShare so meaningful,” said Crickette.