Originally published in the Southington Citizen.
Many must be thinking of the close-to-home match up of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVII on February 5th. Well, there’s even more excitement, especially when our young people are so often the energizers behind charitable and compassionate movements like the Souper Bowl of Caring which utilizes Super Bowl weekend in America to mobilize teens to fight hunger and poverty in their local communities. The vision is to transform Super Bowl weekend into America's largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving. Monetary and food donations collected during the week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday are given directly by each group to local charities chosen by the group.
In past years, going back fifteen years, the teens of six Southington churches have each organized a campaign to collect donations within their congregations. Collectively they have raised $22,981.84, 100% of which has gone to Bread for Life and Southington Community Services, along with several thousand food items.
The movement began in 1990 with a simple prayer by Reverend Brad Smith of Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C: 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. Twenty-churches in Columbia raised $5,700 that year.
The number of groups involved has steadily grown each year. In 2011, youth groups of churches, schools, youth clubs, scouts and others across North America combined to raise $9,605,368.28 plus 10,173 lbs of food for more than 20,000 local charities!
Rev. Ron Brown, pastor of First Congregational Church of Southington, UCC, “we will be participating again this year and our youth will collect donations on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5th with proceeds going to Bread for Life and Community Services. Rev. Dawn Karlsen, who is coordinating the FCC youth, said “the kids decided to wear jerseys of their favorite football teams on the day of the Super Bowl and collect money in big soup pots after each service for the Souper Bowl of Caring. At my ‘home’ church in Granby, the youth participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring each year so I'm excited that a number of churches here in Southington participate as well. This youth event gives us a chance to reflect on our practices, (food - food - food on Super Bowl Sunday), and make something positive out of that: more food for those who regularly are not getting enough in Southington and across our country.”
The Souper Bowl of Caring is part of FCC’s ongoing efforts to promote an end to food-related injustice; other efforts this year have included our "Hunger Banquet," a letter-writing campaign, a food drive and a fundraising campaign. These events have supported our local Bread for Life, Community Services, and international efforts through EDFK (Every Dollar Feeds Kids), the East Africa Famine Relief Fund and Oxfam America.
Rev. Carol Downs, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, said: “The junior and senior high schoolers in our Methodist Youth Fellowship will be coordinating our collection of canned goods and monetary donations for Souper Bowl Sunday on February 5th. Worshippers will be asked to bring their donations in for the Sunday service and the children's message during worship that day will center on the Souper Bowl of Caring and giving. In the community, the proceeds will go to Bread for Life.
Youth Minister, Bev Montana, of the Church of St. Dominic, told us that their Y.E.S. Youth Group would again be participating in the Souper Bowl drive on the Super Bowl weekend. The St. Dom Youth group looks forward to this annual opportunity to do their part to bring people of all ages into their mission of helping to feed the hungry and the poor. “The adults and grandparent generation of our parish always look forward to having the kids standing in the foyer of the church greeting them with soup pots and various interesting garb each group chooses to wear for the occasion.”, Montana said. Fr. Ron May, pastor of St. Dominic, commented that while everyone knows we are living in hard times, the statistics of people who are living on the edge of poverty is staggering.
The number of Americans living in poverty is the highest it has been in 52 years. One in seven households in our nation is food insecure, which affects more than 16 million children. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Souper Bowl of Caring began 16 years ago at Zion Lutheran Church, where Pastor James Debner has personally been part of each year’s effort with his youth members taking the collection to the people on Super Bowl Sunday. Debner’s leadership has inspired interest in Souper Bowl of Caring by many other congregations in Southington.
Rev. Suzannah Rohmann of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church advised us that their community did so well with Famine Sunday last year, having collected $10,000 for Bread for Life and Southington Community Services that they will focus their attention on this movement as this year’s Super Bowl approaches.
The giving spirit of Southington moves on to our children, witness the many ways in which our youth of many faith congregations in town participate effectively in their many efforts to feed the hungry such as the annual CROP Walk each October.
To learn more about what you can do to help and why it is needed visit souperbowl.org.