A clever prayer that included a play on words from a pastor one Super Bowl Sunday started an initiative to tackle hunger called the ‘Souper Bowl’. To date, it has raised nearly $200 million to support food banks, pantries and soup kitchens
On Super Bowl Sunday 1989, Brad Smith, a seminary intern at a South Carolina Presbyterian church, offered up this clever prayer to parishioners: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat.”
The prayer stuck with the congregation, and the following year as Super Bowl Sunday approached, they decided to put the thought into action, and kicked off the first annual Souper Bowl of Caring.
Feeding the hungry each Souper Bowl
The plan was for organizations — including churches and schools — and individuals, like hosts of Super Bowl parties, to collect donations of food or money to help food banks and pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The first year, just Brad’s church and several other churches in the region took part, but together, they collected $5,700 for local hunger-relief charities.
In the coming years, word spread across the nation and by 2000, there were Souper Bowls of Caring held in all 50 states, with many NFL teams and alumni football players advocates of the program.
But realizing hunger is a year-round problem, in 1999, a parent organization called Tackle Hunger was formed to promote hunger-relieving efforts all year long. People generously donate food or money to their local organizations or donate to Tackle Hunger itself to promote the overall initiative.
“We don’t care who you donate to; just tackle hunger,” the organization’s executive director, Alison Reese tells Woman’s World.
But Souper Bowl of Caring remains the organization’s signature project. The fundraiser’s tie to the Super Bowl, a beloved American tradition, gets people engaged and energized, Alison says. “Imagine if everyone watching the game gave one dollar or one can of food.”
One leader of a Texas food pantry thanked Souper Bowl organizers this way: “Solving food insecurity requires a full roster of team players who work together well.”
Since its genesis, Souper Bowl of Caring has made close to $200 million in fighting food insecurity. Last year, close to 4,000 American groups participated, and each year, between 80,000 and 100,000 individual participants are youths; some become leaders as Tackle Hunger Ambassadors. One school in the Houston area alone raised 90,000 pounds of food for pantries!
Mandy Reynolds, a full-time volunteer who handles marketing for Tackle Hunger, has seen many Souper Bowl participants become year-round donors to hunger charities.
Going beyond the bowl
This year, the organization is promoting “Beyond the Bowl” to encourage people to include fresh as well as canned goods and dairy products. “We want to bring healthy foods to food pantries,” she says, and suggests people designate their dollars for these types of food when they make a monetary donation.
“We found that once people know about the issue, they become passionate about food insecurity, and every day is game day,” Mandy says. “Hunger doesn’t happen just one day a year.”
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