Soup Sisters

A Spoonful of Joy

By Amanda Philipow

Published February 2024

For those of us who have never personally experienced food insecurity, it can easily fall to the back of our minds. Even before the pandemic in 2020, approximately 4.5 million Canadians were faced with challenges accessing adequate food every day. As the cost of living continues to increase, non-profit organizations that support our marginalized communities are needed now more than ever. One of the incredible institutions striving to combat this hunger is our longtime community partner Soup Sisters; a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort to women, children and youth through the making, sharing and donating of soup. With food and family at the core of our business, the opportunity to begin working with this locally founded initiative over ten years ago felt like kismet, and we’re even more grateful today as our involvement continues to grow. 

Though it now operates nationwide, Soup Sisters was originally founded in Calgary in 2009 by CEO and soup maker Sharon Hapton. A caregiver for most of her adult life, Sharon often found herself making soup for her friends and family in their times of need. When her children grew up and left home, she found herself longing for that nurturing feeling again. On her 50th birthday, she celebrated with a group of friends by making soup to donate to a local women’s shelter, and the spark that would soon become Soup Sisters was ignited. 

Now you may be asking, of all foods, why soup? Soup Sisters believes in the healing power of soup for a host of reasons. Firstly, soup is filling, nutritious and acts as an entire meal in one delicious bowl. Though undeniably important, many other food-based charities are limited to offering non-perishable, shelf-stable foods that are typically lower in nutritional value. Providing soup allows those who are often accustomed to “you get what you get” mentalities to enjoy the flavourful, high-quality meal they deserve. With three bestselling Soup Sisters cookbooks, the recipes ensure wholesome goodness in each “hug in a bowl” delivered to community in need. 

Secondly, soup is one of the most comforting and widely loved foods across the world. We enjoy it on a chilly winter night curled up with a movie, when we’re snug in bed feeling under the weather and when we just need something warm to make us feel a sense of solace. Whether it’s borscht from Ukraine, classic Louisiana gumbo or hearty Italian minestrone, there’s a reason so many cultures incorporate soup as part of their identity, too — it makes us feel fulfilled in every sense of the word. While warming a can of condensed chicken noodle is sure to work in a pinch, nothing can replicate the feeling or flavour of a home-cooked soup. Soup Sisters strives to offer this sense of home by providing a lovingly prepared, hand-cooked meal to those who need it most. 

Soup Sisters supports front-line organizations across Canada through several methods, the most well-known being their hands-on soup making events. This unique team building experience allows anyone who signs up to be a direct part of making a difference and feeding their community. Classes are volunteer-run and hosted at a multitude of venues across the country — including, you guessed it, Sunterra Market! 

Sunterra is Soup Sisters’ only partner venue in Alberta. In Edmonton, classes are hosted at our Commerce Place location downtown. In Calgary and Red Deer, we host Soup Sisters classes at our COMMUNITYtable venues located at our Keynote and Bower Place locations. Named after their core purpose, these spaces were designed to bring communities together to educate, collaborate and build relationships in unique and creative ways. Many decades ago, Sunterra co-founder Flo Price would invite women from the community into her home every month to bake bread, bond and connect with her neighbours, friends and friends-to-be. COMMUNITYtable was founded on these same values; a photo of Flo even adorns the wall outside these venues as a reminder of all the incredible things that can be accomplished in one room. With all this in mind, these spaces became the perfect place to host Soup Sisters classes, bringing together people from all walks of life for one central cause. 

Sunterra Market has hosted Soup Sisters classes since 2010 and officially became a Certified Culinary Partner in 2022. During the pandemic, Sharon had to get creative and find a new way to keep the soup flowing to agencies in need. This resulted in Soup Sisters evolving to become Canada’s first soup bank, facilitating large scale production and shipping of flash frozen soup to over 40 agencies across the country. However, when the pandemic ended, Sharon knew she was missing the magic that came from a group of people cooking together in-person with the intention to help others. She developed her Certified Culinary Partner program and once again asked if Sunterra would be involved. 

Being a Soup Sisters Culinary Partner means we not only provide the physical kitchen space, but also the ingredients, packaging materials, chef facilitator and dinner for the attendees of every soup making class. As a customer of our Britannia location for many years, Sharon was familiar with the pride we take in the quality of all our ingredients. As a result, she was confident we would offer the best experience for attendees and therefore the most nutritious, wholesome soup for the recipients. 

So, what exactly does a Soup Sisters event at Sunterra Market look like? Each group of 12 to 24 participants (venue dependent) begins with a few words from a Soup Sisters representative while enjoying appetizers and wine. Attendees will also hear from a member of the shelter or agency where the soup is being donated. This gives everyone involved a special opportunity to hear firsthand about who their time and commitment will be impacting. For the cooking portion of the class, participants are divided into groups of four with each person making one 4L pot of soup. A talented Sunterra chef then provides instruction and guidance through each step, so no experience is required! Many participants even walk away with newfound food safety knowledge, knife skills and cooking tips. While the soup is simmering, attendees enjoy a delicious meal of Sunterra prepared soup, salad, artisan bread and a glass of wine. After dinner, the soup is portioned and packaged, also giving participants a chance to write a heartfelt, handwritten note on each container of soup. We take care of the rest, coordinating delivery with Soup Sisters and donating 10% of the program cost back to the organization!

Since its beginning 15 years ago, Soup Sisters has provided over 4 million bowls of soup with the help of over 100,000 volunteers in 28 cities across Canada. For every container of soup that leaves our COMMUNITYtable kitchens, we’re proud to be a part of the invaluable service that Soup Sisters provides across Alberta. The next time you’re planning a night with friends, entertaining clients or looking to do some team building, we encourage you to book a Soup Sisters soup making event! Contact the Sunterra catering team to book your class in Calgary, Edmonton or Red Deer and offer a ladle of love to someone in need.

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