By BERT GAMBINI
Published April 27, 2023
A bestselling book from the early 1990s spoke of chicken soup for the soul. And while the book’s title referred to the individual’s soul, a dedicated group of UB students believes that chicken soup — real soup, in this case — can also benefit the community’s soul, as “Buffalo Soup” will demonstrate from 6-9 p.m. May 3 at Thin Man Brewery, 492 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo.
Buffalo Soup, the first crowdfunding event of its kind in Western New York, will put a microgrant into the hands of a local community organization while providing guests with a light meal, thanks to a group of student organizers in an experiential learning course in UB’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) program.
Students in the course “Integrating Philosophy, Politics and Economics” (PHI 485) were split into three teams at the beginning of the semester. Their instructor, David Gray, associate teaching professor of philosophy, gave each team a single instruction: Make the world better.
“The purpose of this class is to have students synthesize what they have learned about philosophy, political science and economics throughout the program while applying it all to achieve concrete social improvement,” says Gray. “Team Buffalo Soup responded to the challenge by planning this event and hopefully starting what becomes a tradition in Buffalo of such events being held every year.”
The crowdsourcing soup concept is simple: Attendees donate at one of three suggested levels — $5, $10 or $25 — for a bowl of chicken noodle soup with garlic butter-toasted crostini. During the meal, four organizations will make five-minute presentations explaining their services and how a donation could further that mission. Once all the organizations have made their pitches and answered questions, an audience vote will determine who receives the microgrant, an amount determined by the evening’s donation total.
The four participants for Buffalo Soup are:
Annabella Bogart, a senior law and psychology double major with a PPE minor, is among the student organizers. She sees Buffalo Soup as a vehicle that connects a large group of people committed to community improvement.
“This is a fun way to help out and give back to the community that brings together organizations and groups across Buffalo in ways that help thinkers, dreamers and do-ers in our area get the funds they need to make a difference,” says Bogart. “It’s an honor to work with faculty and fellow students in ways that give back to the community.”
Buffalo Soup borrows its format from similar successful community-based programs. The idea started in Detroit and later spread to Toledo, Ohio, where Jessica Kruger, UB clinical associate professor of community health and health behavior in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, attended several events. Kruger introduced the idea to Gray, who suggested the event to his students.
“I’m so excited the students are taking this on,” says Kruger. “These students took the reins on a project that in other cities required the infrastructure of an entire organization and staff to make it happen. It’s a huge lift that they’re completing over the course of the semester.”
And it’s not just Buffalo Soup that’s making a difference. Team Traffic Cones, another group in the course, is collecting items that will populate a reading room in the women’s shelter at the Buffalo City Mission. The third team, Gift of Thrift, is collecting lightly used items from students’ dorms, such as clothing and appliances, that will serve as the inventory for a pop-up, with proceeds from item sales going to charity.
“I’m really proud of all of these students,” says Gray. “They are getting out there and trying to have a positive impact on Buffalo.
“I can’t wait to see what happens.”