Joseph Rowntree Senior was involved in the setting up of the York Soup Kitchen, situated somewhere in the vicinity of Lady Peckett’s Yard, in the hard winter of 1845-46. He became closely involved in the technical arrangements and practical details, such as the steam boiling equipment, the best recipes to use, distribution etc.
When his son Joseph set up his trusts in 1904, he wrote in his Memorandum: ‘The soup kitchen in York never has difficulty in obtaining adequate financial aid, but an enquiry into the extent and causes of poverty would enlist little support.’
This has become one of the key principles on which the charitable trusts operate still today – not only to address the immediate effects of poverty and injustice but also the root causes. His recognition of the need to identify root causes was one of his most visionary legacies.
Today, situated very close to the site of the original soup kitchen, is a breakfast centre for the homeless and disadvantaged, run by an ecumenical group based at the Central Methodist church – as reminder, if one were needed, that the problems that Joseph Rowntree set out to alleviate, have not gone away.