Feb 08, 2023 | John W. Coleman

Just as the NFL’s Super Bowl begins play on Sunday at 6:30 PM, a much bigger and friendlier United Methodist competition will end—a competition that highlights not football but food banks. It’s the donated food collection competition between the Eastern PA and Greater New Jersey conferences—now affiliated as EPA&GNJ—versus the Missouri and Great Plains conferences.  

“We’ve been challenged,” Bishop John Schol announced in a letter sent Feb. 7 to “EPA&GNJ friends, sports fans and people who care about others,” followed by a new video*. Both promote the six-day food collection and donation competition.

“The United Methodists of Missouri and Kansas (Kansas City Chiefs fans) have the audacity to challenge the good people of EPA&GNJ in conjunction with this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Apparently, they think their football team is better and that they can collect more food for area food banks than we can.”

Bishop Schol leaves the outcome of the football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs to be settled on the field, although he does offer scripture from Isaiah 40:31 as a possible prediction.

“But we can demonstrate our commitment to help feed those who need food,” he writes. “Time is short. We only have until Sunday at game time, 6:30 p.m., to collect as much food as we can.”

A campaign response to increasing hunger

Each congregation will determine how many pounds of food they raise and where they will donate it, recognizing that high inflation has raised food prices and increased hunger in our area and nation.

“Scour your pantries, invite your neighbors to join in, and work with your local supermarkets to collect as much food as possible,” he urges. He invites churches that will participate in the annual Souper Bowl of Caring to add their food collection totals to their count.

Fittingly, the spoils of victory in this competition will be food—not just any food, but foods that are famous in each metropolitan area represented in the big game.

“If we collect more food,” Bishop Schol writes, “they will send your bishop some Kansas City barbeque. If they collect more food, I will send…some Tastykakes and Philly Cheesesteaks.” (Actually, the bishop first offers, in an obvious joke, to send “two pastors and a player to be named later.”)

An online form is available to report how much food is collected and to provide photos. EPA&GNJ members living outside the area can donate collected food to their churches or to food banks near them and report it on the form. Members will be kept updated with online reports throughout the week “about how we are doing.”

“Let’s work together to raise food for our neighbors,” urges Bishop Schol in the letter and in the video, before donning a Philadelphia Eagles cap and adding an irresistible postscript: “Fly, Eagles, fly!”