A socially-distant soup kitchen

Story by Will Broadwater

As the smell of spices fills the air, people approach the driveway of Greg and Eric Zock to receive servings of soup during the COVID-19 outbreak. The two brothers aren’t the only Athens residents sacrificing their time and health to give food to those in need, but they’ve found a way to use their culinary skills to make soup and distribute it to people for free.

Soup is known to be able to spread rations of food out in times of need. For the most part, soups are easy to make and can be made in large batches to be distributed.

“Soup is mine and Greg’s love language,” Eric says.

On March 20, the Zock brothers made chili to distribute to their friends in the service industry as well as people in the Boulevard area of Athens. The chili was both gluten-free and vegan to accommodate various dietary restrictions. They asked that people bring to-go containers that the Zocks would clean themselves before serving the soup. However, they had some to-go containers on hand in case anybody did not have one. The two brothers are taking many health precautions in order to avoid spreading germs.

 “When we go to the store, of course we’re wearing masks and gloves and we try to only touch the things we need,” Greg says. “When we get them home, we spray all of the packaging and wipe it down. When we cook, we wear gloves and masks and we ensure that the soup gets up to a high enough temperature where it would kill anything.”

Their set up has been successful in minimizing contact with others.

“So, we have a turkey fryer with a big pot out on the porch and pretty much we’ll have like three to five containers already portioned up in case people don’t have their containers,” Eric says. “Pretty much, people come to our driveway and if they have a container, we will take it inside to wash it. We serve the soup on the porch and then bring it to them, so the farthest they’re getting is the end of our driveway.”

The Zocks are taking precautions when preparing the soup by wearing gloves and masks to ensure the safety of the people receiving their soup. Greg and Eric have also been making deliveries to people who are currently quarantined due to immune deficiencies or other pre-existing conditions. The brothers deliver the soup by dropping it off at the person’s door and letting them know it is outside as they are leaving.  

“The community across the board has been ridiculously selfless, because it’s been all walks of people,” Eric says. “This is for everyone, but it’s really geared towards people without a paycheck. My friends in the service industry told me to give it to someone else. So that really stuck out, people being so generous and selfless in these times, even though they are struggling themselves.”

Aside from a chili that was full of hearty beans and vegetables, the brothers also make a poblano corn chowder with fresh produce from local farmers. The Zock brothers say they are supporting local farms by using their produce and that many people, even some small businesses, have made donations. The Zocks said these donations have gone a long way in purchasing the ingredients for the soup as well as getting the supplies needed for distribution. With the support from others in the community, they are eager to keep cooking different soups to feed those in need for as long as they can.

The two brothers have both had years of experience in the food service industry. They have worked in restaurants and know the proper precautions when preparing food. Greg graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in environmental chemistry and while getting his undergraduate degree, he and Eric worked at the Heirloom Café in Athens. For the past two years, the brothers have been chosen to cook for UGA’s Interdisciplinary Field Program and have spent summers traveling across the country with this program to prepare large meals for the students.

The outbreak of COVID-19 left millions of their fellow service industry employees out of work and struggling to get the food and supplies they need to survive. The Zock brothers do not have a lot of resources, but are using their passion and talent in cooking to do their part to give back to the community, understanding that the act of giving is what makes us human, as giving makes us feel accomplished. We see someone who is less fortunate than us and want to give them a helping hand. To the giver, this could be one trivial action, while it could be life-changing for the person receiving it.

As the virus progresses, it is important to be a helping hand for someone, with our society being far from normal. Everyone is being affected by this virus, some more than others. The act of giving has grown amongst communities across the nation. People are coming together, becoming one, in an attempt to overcome this virus outbreak. This virus has taken us away from the hectic society that we are accustom to and has brought us back to the roots of our humanity, where people are risking their health to provide a helping hand for the communities in need.

From left, brothers Greg and Eric Zock prepare servings of soup for the Athens community on April 5.

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