A soup kitchen disguised as a restaurant is making a big difference in Kansas City.

Doesn't this meal look pretty dang tasty?

Here we have a roast leg of lamb, gravy with red currant, pilaf, steamed broccoli, Farm to Market Bread Co. bread, and fresh fruit. All photos by Kansas City Community Kitchen, used with permission.


And how about this one? YUM.

Check out this ras el hanout chicken, couscous, green beans, cucumber salad, and fresh fruit. SO MUCH YUM.

You might be surprised to find out that these beautiful dishes didn't come from a fancy restaurant or even a special at-home dinner.

They're just a couple of typical meals from one of the country's most innovative soup kitchens.

The restaurant-style Kansas City Community Kitchen is a completely new way to feed those in need.

Say goodbye to trays, buffets, and waiting in lines to eat at a regular old soup kitchen.

When you step inside the Kansas City Community Kitchen today, a greeter shows you to a table. Volunteer waitstaff takes your order after you've had time to look at the menu and see what the culinary team has been cookin' up. The options are healthier and quite creative, like an episode of Food Network's "Chopped," but with the ingredients available to the kitchen that day.

Diners are encouraged to leave reviews of their service and requests for what they'd like to see on the menu.

Have health, dietary, or religious-observance needs? No sweat. Here's an example of a lunch they just prepared during Lent: spiced swai, broccoli cheese casserole, garlic-Parmesan fries with house ketchup, and simple greens salad with tomato-water vinaigrette.

Delicious.

"We are trying to flip the photo of what a soup kitchen looks like," Mandy Caruso-Yahne, director of community engagement at Episcopal Community Services (ECS), told Upworthy.

I'd say they're off to a good start.

But feeding those in need isn't the only way the kitchen is helping. They're training others too.

The ECS Culinary Cornerstones six-month training program gives classroom and hands-on experience to those interested in the culinary industry but who are dealing with barriers that keep them from doing it the traditional way. Besides, school doesn't work for everyone.

Through the program, students work their way up to cooking in the kitchen and providing suggestions for the menu and dishes they prepare. They develop knowledge and confidence in a variety of ways that help them continue down a path in the food industry once they're finished with the program.

It's an awesome way to bring different parts of the community together in one place.

Mandy emphasized that everyone is welcome at their kitchen: college kids, police officers, doctors, students, volunteers. You don't have to be unable to afford food to get a bite to eat or volunteer your time. And with restaurant-quality meals at no cost, how could you resist?

Getting people of all backgrounds to blend together — even for a few hours each day — is such an important way to learn and build trust within the community.

As one diner named Brian put it, "They’re treating me good, like they don’t know I’m homeless."

And that's exactly the point.

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Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

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The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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