Community Soup Kitchen Grows Under New Director
Joshua Lamarr Watkins is named Executive Director.
Under the direction of a new leader, one of New Haven’s longest-running food programs is continuing to broaden its reach to people in need. Joshua Lamarr Watkins was named executive director of Community Soup Kitchen, taking the helm in January 2021 after long-time director David O’Sullivan retired. O’Sullivan, who started as a volunteer in 1980, ran the agency for 33 years before stepping down on Dec. 31, 2020.
Watkins stepped in as the Community Soup Kitchen was working under challenging new protocols brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency has had to shift from serving its meals in a congregate setting inside to serving outside and providing meals to go. The agency has also expanded its offerings to include more meals. During the first months of 2021, Community Soup Kitchen served 82,000 meals, doubling the amount it had served in previous years for the same time-frame.
Watkins said for 2021, they were on pace to more than double, and could possibly triple the meals served over previous years.
"We have kicked it up a notch," Watkins said. "The guests we are serving are not necessarily homeless. Many have jobs. We serve everybody and everyone, and we’ve stepped forward to go beyond serving one meal. People can have as many meals as they want," said Watkins.
Previously Director of Programs at Tuxis Pond Assisted Living Facility in Madison, CT, Watkins has helped expand the Community Soup Kitchen's network of grocery store partners that donate fresh produce and meat. He has also overseen the opening of a satellite location in Hamden at the Keefe Community Center.
In addition to serving meals, Community Soup Kitchen acts as a host site to agencies such as Hill Health Center, and the ACCESS mental health outreach team. This spring, Community Soup Kitchen hosted multiple clinics for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Community Soup Kitchen was recently supported with $55,000 in grants from the COVID-19 Community Fund and a $15,000 grant from The Basic Needs Fund.