Nestled between downtown San Jose and the quaint town of Willow Glen lies a “little soup kitchen” that will turn 30 in 2011. Founder Louise Benson began this work out of her garage when she prepared and gave away peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the poor. Then in 1981, she and her friends started Martha’s Kitchen on the premises of the Sacred Heart Church serving hot meals. The kitchen was named after a biblical figure, Martha, who unfailingly offered hot meals to Jesus and his band of followers on their frequent journeys through the community of Bethany.
Today, this “little soup kitchen” is not so little anymore. It still gives out hot meals onsite with its mission to “feed the hungry with dignity, no questions asked, no judgment made.” And its meals are hot and complete with soup, salad, roll, starch, a main dish, fruit and dessert. It also sends out over 210,000 hot and cold meals annually to more than a dozen other non-profit organizations in Santa Clara county as far south as Gilroy, and even to the dusty agricultural Merced county to support the hungry. Before the end of 2010 it served its 2,000,000th meal since its founding, and has now grown to an annual production of over 250,000 meals. The “little soup kitchen that could” has proven it certainly could run an efficient kitchen with a lean staff of 6 employees which includes the Executive Director/Development Director, Operations Manager, two cooks and two and a half kitchen help. Edita Cruz, Executive Directors forecasts that Martha’s Kitchen will prepare 1,000,000 meals in as little as every four years.