Soup kitchens were started during the depression era. Soup kitchens provide free meals to low income individuals and those who are homeless. They are often affiliated with nonprofit agencies, churches or homeless shelters. Starting a soup kitchen is a great way to help give back to the community and offer a healthy meal to those in need.

Become incorporated as a nonprofit agency. Contact the Charity Registration Office in your state to fill out the needed paperwork to become a nonprofit agency. Because you will want to accept grants, donations and raise money you will also want exemption from paying federal income tax. Contact the IRS for specific forms to fill out.

Write a grant proposal. Check with your local library, community college or nonprofit resource center for classes on writing grant proposals. Various foundations, state and federal governments have funding available for nonprofit agencies. Grant proposals usually include a mission statement, an explanation of the problem and how your soup kitchen would help.

Find a location. The soup kitchen should be located in an area where low income and homeless individuals can access it easily. Contact churches, civic centers and other community organizations to determine if they have a location you can use.

Call your local newspapers, radio and television stations. Write press releases and public service announcements. Inform them about the opening of the soup kitchen. Explain the need and how people in the community can help. Creating public awareness may assist with obtaining donations.

Contact local restaurants. Ask restaurants if they would donate excess food that is not used or sold to customers at the end of the day.

Recruit volunteers. Volunteers are needed to prepare and serve meals. They can also work on fund-raising events and perform clerical duties. Contact colleges and senior centers to look for volunteers. Speak at churches and community organizations to get the word out about the need for volunteers.

Collaborate with other nonprofit agencies helping the poor and homeless. Contact program directors to determine if they would be interested in working together to open the soup kitchen. They may be able to help you raise funds and write grant proposals.