On a bench in my dining room there's a pile of blankets and comforters that I've collected from my basement and various closets that I'll be donating to refugees from Syria who have made their way to the safety of New Jersey with little but the clothes on their backs. It's not a lot, but it's something I can do to help families who have escaped the civil war and its unimaginable atrocities.

soup-for-striaIt's something, a small thing, I can do. Of course it doesn't feel like enough, and I'm looking for other things I can do. One option is spending $30 on a cookbook filled with soup recipes from more than 80 celebrity chefs and culinary professionals from all over the world. "Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity" by Barbara Abdeni Massaad has stunning photos of international recipes that are easy to follow and made with ingredients found in local grocery stores. (And the list of contributors is impressive.)

Massaad, who lives in Beirut, was inspired to write a book that would benefit those in need while she was visiting a refugee camp in Syria, according to NPR. She and a friend were putting together hearty soups to feed refugees at a farmers market. She wondered if creating a cookbook full of soup recipes could raise awareness and funds — and she was right.

The cookbook has already raised more than $300,000. It's currently sold out, but pre-orders are being accepted for the next publication run.

Profits from the sale of the cookbook will be donated to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide urgently needed food relief for Syrian refugees.

How great is the need? I don't think anyone truly knows yet because the civil war is still raging and there's a lot we don't know about what's going on there. But, here are some of the numbers we do know, as reported on "Soup for Syria's" website.

  • There are more than 4 million refugees in primarily five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
  • Within Syria, more than 8 million people are displaced.
  • Half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18.
  • More than half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million is in desperate need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Looking through the comments about the book on Amazon — most of them are overwhelmingly positive — one thing stands out: the book is beautiful. A few mention the stunning photos in it — not just the images of the finished recipes but also of the Syrian refugees — so it makes a great coffee table book as well. For all those reasons, it's not just a great idea; it's a wonderful conversation starter as well.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

'Soup for Syria' raises funds for food relief
'Soup for Syria' by Barbara Abdeni Massaad compiles international recipes to raise funds for food relief for Syrian refugees.