Over its long history St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen has taken many forms, beginning in the early 1900s as an informal food service to homeless persons and rail travelers provided by the Sisters of Charity, janitorial staff and priests who resided in the parish complex. Service remained informal for decades until the Detroit uprising of 1967, when the parish basement served as an emergency center for the elderly and homeless with the Red Cross feeding over 200 people sheltered there. Members of the Detroit branch of the Black Panther Party were also key in providing food service at the parish, feeding community members who were displaced by the civil disturbance and anyone in need.
After the 1971 closure of St. Leo High School, alumni committed themselves to the formation of a soup kitchen ministry as a way to continue service to the local community. In 1974 St. Leo parish pastor Father John Morel worked to found a formal kitchen modeled after the Capuchin’s operation on the city’s east side. Food was at first prepared in the homes of several volunteers and then two commercial stoves were obtained, allowing meals to be prepared on site and distributed. Campbell’s Soups, Gleaners and the Capuchins at St. Bonaventure’s were key contributors, and by 1976 the facility was able to feed the poor five days a week.
St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen has been operational for decades since, and despite a changing parish and surrounding community continues serving to this day. The 2017 closure of St. Leo Parish (by then also known as St.Charles Lwanga parish after an Archdiocesan-directed merger with the nearby St. Cecilia parish) led to the formation of the St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen Board of Directors, who are committed to continuing the Soup Kitchen and sustaining its mission of providing meals and services to guests in need.
Each year, St. Leo's Soup Kitchen serves around 40,000 meals to the Detroit community.
Today St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen continues to operate Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30am to 12:30pm. The Malta Dental and Medical Clinics are open from 8:30am to 1:30pm with the medical clinic open the first and third Wednesdays of the month and dental clinic open Thursdays and Fridays.