A Toronto man agreed to eat the soup to raise money for the food bank, and Instagrammers noticed
The Parkdale Community Food Bank has raised over $35,000 thanks to a Toronto man who volunteered to eat a 14-year-old can of soup. The President’s Choice Chicken with Egg Noodles soup, donated to the food bank, expired in 2006.
“I’m just hungry,” says Oliver O’Brien in an Instagram comment on the food bank’s account.
Luckily for O’Brien, who moved to Parkdale in May, members of the community donated over $4,700 more to the “Save Him” fund than the “Eat Old Soup” fund, and he never did have to eat the soup.
“Everything I do is media-based,” says O’Brien, who markets his band called BODY DBL, and works for a cannabis retailer that both get constant media attention. Still, going viral as “soup guy” made him nervous. “Media attention is scary. It’s hard to control your image.”
Instagram commenters debated over how rotten the soup actually would be, and if he would actually be sick from eating it or not. “Think about how tall you’ve grown in 14 years. Think about how many words you’ve texted,” says O’Brien. “The overall point was that no one should be eating that. In fact, we shouldn’t be donating cans or food to food banks. Money is and will always be the best option.”
In an Instagram post on Nov. 18, the organization announced that it would be accepting donations for one week to determine O’Brien’s (and the soup’s) fate. Originally, O’Brien agreed to eat the soup if $10,000 was raised, but that goal was met three days before the week was up. Companies like Loblaws and Pink Cherry pitched in, each with $5,000 donations.
The 14-year-old soup is just one of several expired food products that the Parkdale Community Food Bank receives through food donations on a daily basis.
“If it’s not good enough for you or your family, it’s not probably good enough for our clients,” the food bank’s manager, Kitty Raman-Costa, says regularly on the Parkdale Community Food Bank Instagram videos.
Food bank use in Toronto is higher than it’s ever been. Monthly food bank visits are up 51 per cent from 2019, according to the Who’s Hungry 2020 report. COVID-19 has led to a spike in food insecurity, and organizations like the Parkdale Community Food Bank have been struggling to keep up with the new demand.
The soup fund is over, but the food bank is always accepting food donations. It is also hosting a toy drive until Dec. 13 and new, unwrapped toys can be donated to the Roncesvalles United Church, and will be given to community members.
As for O’Brien, his work with the Parkdale Community Food Bank will continue. “I work in social media and digital marketing and will be giving Kitty as much help as I can. I also plan to volunteer for regular positions,” he says.
“It’s also such a pure cause. People just … get food. No political or religious agenda, you just get food and a smile.”