Campus Currents

Cup of Comfort

It may sound like an old wives' tale, but what's more soothing than a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup when you're sick? No one can explain exactly why chicken soup is such good medicine—some researchers believe it's the steam that opens up congested noses and throats. Others talk about the broth, or the vegetables and there's even a theory about amino acids. But Connie Hutchins, a part-time administrative assistant at UNH Health Services, has a simpler, more wholesome theory: She believes it's the comfort factor.

"I grew up on chicken soup," says Hutchins. "If you were sick with a fever or the flu, you got crackers and chicken soup. It always made you feel better."

About five years ago, Hutchins—nicknamed the "Soup Lady" by her co-workers—brought this healing philosophy to work when she began donating her homemade chicken soup to students and staff to help ease their suffering. "I started making the soup during a terrible flu season. The staff was hit particularly hard and I just asked, 'Do you mind if I make some chicken soup for everybody?' And that's how it started."

While at first Hutchins supplied the soup herself, soon her colleagues were helping with the cost. Eventually she received a $700 grant from the Parents' Association to cover the cost of the ingredients, a crock pot, a wagon and other supplies. She estimates that she serves from 50 to 100 gallons of soup per season.

The mother of two and a life-long volunteer for various organizations such as Children's Hospital in Dover, N.H., it's not surprising to hear Hutchins say that the best part of being the "Soup Lady" is her interaction with students. "I sit at the front desk so I get to watch everyone enjoying my soup. I remember one young woman who came into the center looking very sad," she recalled. "A little later, she came up to me and said, 'I know this sounds like a silly question, but who made this soup? I love it!" That, says the Soup Lady, is what makes her work so worthwhile.

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