‘Souper Bowl’ Sunday anti-hunger tradition continues in EPA

Congregations across the EPA Conference made the recent NFL Super Bowl Sunday a Super Sunday for Mission by tackling hunger through the “Souper Bowl of Caring.”   Continuing a popular, national youth ministry tradition that began in 1990, they collected canned soup and donations to help feed hungry neighbors in their communities.

Numerous churches responded to a request by informing EPA Communications about their Souper Bowl outreach plans.  Like many, Conyngham UMC collaborated with local interfaith partners in its efforts. As usual, youth members stood in the back of the sanctuary collecting funds in soup bowls for the church’s food pantry, which serves 67 families.

St. Paul’s UMC in Warrington doubled its effort over two Sundays. After Jan. 26 they sent out a status report–a “Souper Bowl Half-Time Score”–to all church members, encouraging them to bring in their items on Feb. 2.

“Our goal was 214 items for 2014; and our final score was 316 items and $66 for the Bucks County Food Pantry,” wrote Diana Wrisley, Christian Education Director. “This pantry is one of the primary mission venues for our church and is staffed every week by numerous congregants.”

The Sunday School at Neshamony UMC in Hulmeville, which has done the Souper Bowl of Caring for 12 years, has added “a special twist” the past four years, according to member Patty McIntire.

They cosponsor a community soup-making competition in their fellowship hall, where members and guests pay $10 and donate cans of soup. The soup goes to the local food bank, while the Soup Cook-Off proceeds are used to help restore a nearby playground for children.

Several Northwest District churches shared news of their Souper Bowl plans. Members of Zion UMC in Myerstown will wear their favorite NFL jerseys to worship and bring cans and boxes of soup with crackers to be given to the Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM) and the Myerstown Church of the Brethren Food Bank. Many will then stay after worship for a soup and hot dog luncheon.

Palmyra First UMC placed collected items on window sills in the sanctuary, chapel and fellowship hall to inspire worshipers to add more donations, all for the local Council of Churches’ Caring Cupboard Food Pantry. The church’s adult Koinonia Group sponsored the effort. “We’re not a youth group,” wrote Tracy Nornhold, “but we’re young at heart.”

Youth at Trinity UMC in Lickdale collected non-perishable food for four weeks to donate to the Joy Pantry and LCCM. A dozen youth and three adults even braved the bitter cold one Saturday collecting donations outside a local grocery store for 2½ hours.

First UMC in Frackville had been doing Souper Bowl Sunday for at least seven years to aid the local ecumenical ministry’s food bank. But one Sunday a year is not enough for Avon Zion UMC, which also collects food donations for Souper School Sundays in September.

Church Administrative Assistant Bonnie Nye started the project to provide food for children in low-income families to eat when they return home from school. Seven area churches responded to her appeal by contributing a total of 802 pounds of food that members sorted, bagged and delivered to LCCM.

Churches typically give 100 percent of their donations to local hunger-relief charities of their choice. The national Souper Bowl of Caring campaign reportedly has raised nearly $3 million so far in 2014. That’s about one-third of the nearly $10 million collected by 10,000 churches and groups in 2012.

If your church participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring this year please let us know. Better yet, please send us some photos from your efforts so we can post some on our Facebook page and Web site.

–John Coleman