Soup kitchens have become an integral part of a larger, ongoing, emergency food and hunger network. Known as emergency food relief (EFR) programs, soup kitchens and food pantries dominate the private sectors effort to feed the hungry. Soup kitchens usually prepare and serve meals on-site to individuals and families, while food pantries provide a package of several days worth of food for home preparation. It is estimated that between twelve and twenty-one million people each year rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. Second Harvest, the largest private food distribution program, is a national network of two hundred regional food banks providing food to more than 94,000 local soup kitchens, food pantries, and other food programs throughout the United States.
Chapters in the NABSTMC volunteer countless hours to serving meals at their local soup kitchens.