CINCINNATI — La Soupe is in the business of feeding those in need.
Since 2014, the nonprofit has rescued excess perishable food items donated from area restaurants and catering services and turned them into nutritious meals, which La Soupe then distributes to area food kitchens, schools and other nonprofit organizations.
On Wednesday and Thursday, La Soupe founder Suzy DeYoung and an army of volunteers will set up an impromptu soup kitchen at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to serve the same hot meals to federal workers and families affected by the ongoing government shutdown.
"If it goes well and we can do it again, we'll do it the following Wednesday and Thursday again," DeYoung said.
The food will be served from the college's Summit restaurant located at 3520 Central Parkway in Cincinnati. People can pick up takeout meals handed to them in the restaurant's parking lot from 2-8 p.m. or dine inside from 5-8 p.m. both days.
More than 800,000 government employees are currently furloughed and many have gone without a paycheck after President Donald Trump and Congress failed to agree on a budget that would keep the federal government open on Dec. 22. Trump and members of congress remain at a stalemate over his demand for $5 billion to construct a wall along the Mexico-United States border.
DeYoung is unsure how many people will take advantage of La Soupe's meals.
"Our best guess is there are about 3,000 people (locally) affected by the shutdown," DeYoung said. "How many will show up? That's the big question."
She added La Soupe is prepared to serve 1,500 meals each day and ready to prepare more if needed.
If the turnout is less than expected?
"We already have all of our share partners," DeYoung said.
Those partners, who regularly receive meals from La Soupe, include places such as the Talbert House and the Anna Louise Inn women's shelter.
"They'll be given a whole lot of food" if attendance is lower than projected, said DeYoung. "It won't go to waste."
DeYoung was inspired to open the soup kitchen for federal employees after learning celebrity chef restaurateur and Nobel Prize nominee Jose Andres launched his "Chefs for Feds" initiative for government employees in Washington D.C. DeYoung is also a member of Andres' humanitarian "World Central Kitchen" organization.
"We support them as much as we can," she said.
DeYoung said La Soupe's partnership with Cincinnati State came about after she ran into Jason Lafferty, an associate dean and executive chef at the two-year public college during a recent food show.
DeYoung said Lafferty told her Cincinnati State wanted to let nonprofits know it would welcome them to use the college's restaurant space.
"I was like, 'That's perfect,'" she said. "Everything came together in about a day — not even — maybe 12 hours."
Volunteers will begin preparing meals on Tuesday. If the government shutdown continues, La Soupe is not only prepared to open its kitchen on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next three weeks but will enlist students from Indian Hill High School to prepare to-go meals on Feb. 20 for distribution.
"It will be more carry-out dinners to go," DeYoung said, adding she hoped the government crisis will end soon. "I guess we're being optimistic these idiots will figure it out by then."