By: Daniel Brown
“There’s a lot of energy around access to food and healthy food, and then a lot of energy around mental health,” says Sister Susan Kidd. (Daniel Brown)
Sam Vail cradled the bowl in his hands.
Surrounding him were friends, fellow students, and university staff. The room was full of conversation, and most students still had their jackets on.
The reason people were gathering is simple.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing that will bring people together more than free food,â€ he said.
Once a month, UPEI students flock to the Chaplaincy Centre to get a free bowl of hot soup.
More and more students are getting in on it â€“ 327 bowls were served during the latest event, setting a new record.
This yearâ€™s Soup for the Soul took place on Jan. 30 as an official part of UPEI Mental Health Week. It coincided with Bell Letâ€™s Talk Day, a social media campaign to raise money and awareness for mental health.
Sr. Susan Kidd is the universityâ€™s chaplain. The event started four years ago in collaboration with the provincial government Health and Wellness department, she said.
â€œWe got some funding initially to promote healthy eating and mental health.â€
Kidd often speaks with students struggling with mental health. Something she notices is that they feel alone.
So during an event, the Chaplaincy Centre cooks and serves soup over the lunch hour. Students gather around a table to share the meal, she said.
â€œIt does help us to build community.â€
Fast food and junk food are cheap and easy. As a result, many students find it difficult to get a healthy meal.
Soup for the Soul is physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy, Kidd said.
â€œEverybody comes to the Chaplaincy Centre for free food. It just helps to build that spirit.â€
Now, other campus groups are helping host the event. This month marks the beginning of the UPEI Student Unionâ€™s direct involvement.
Will McGuigan is the SU president. When he reached out to Kidd, he set a personal goal to have this event be the best of the year.
â€œI didnâ€™t think itâ€™d break the record.â€
McGuigan wanted to make this event stood out. His solution was simple, and may have been the reason so many students attended.
â€œI contacted [Mellow Dough] and they were more than happy to supply some donuts,â€ he said.
A huge part of Mental Health Week is making people want to attend events. This means being inclusive and welcoming, he said.
â€œHave a bowl of soup with a stranger and make a friend.â€