By Jessica Easthope
Millicent Souris is always pushing to do more. As the Director of Emergency Food at St. John’s Bread & Life food pantry, she brings an unwavering drive to everything she does.
“I’ve always been drawn to feeding people,” she said. “There’s something very intimate about feeding people and that was always my point of view in working in restaurants.”
Millicent is a professionally-trained chef, but she ditched her white coat for a Bread & Life sweatshirt. As a chef, she aimed to please the palates of her wealthy customers – but these days, pallets of a different kind are one of her biggest concerns.
“We have figured out how to maximize space in this building,” said Millicent. “Our chapel holds pallets. Our old pantry waiting area holds pallets. Our old dining room is where we put pantry bags and pallets. We’ve altered this entire building.”
Inside the Bedford-Stuyvesant soup kitchen, pallets are everywhere. Though Bread & Life feeds thousands of people a day, the pandemic has taken food insecurity to unimaginable heights – a mountain Millicent climbs every day.
“Food right now to me is a movement of palettes,” she said. “Moving things around, understanding how we can store things best, trying to understand how we can be the most efficient place so we can feed people because the numbers keep going up.”
Bread & Life has served more meals than ever before this year and it’s on track to serve more than 1 million in 2021. For Millicent, her work isn’t only about giving back but it’s also helping others move forward.
“Seeing other people get involved and involved and committed in a real way, not just volunteering on Thanksgiving but in a real way,” she said.
Leading by example is what she’s known for.
“She really has a way about her that she gets people involved and committed and that’s what we want,” said Sister Caroline Tweedy RSM, the executive director of the soup kitchen. “She felt called to do this work and she’s made Bread & Life a better place.”
Millicent gave up a career of feeding few to feed many and she’s never looked back.
“There are so many people who know the work that has to happen,” she said. “And to switch it up to meet the needs is incredible.”