It all started with a seminary intern’s prayer in 1990.
The now-Reverend Brad Smith asked the congregation of Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia to remember on Super Bowl Sunday, “those without a bowl of soup to eat.” The brief statement inspired Smith and a youth group at the church to start a food drive to benefit a local food bank. They partnered with 21 other churches to raise about $5,700.
21 years later, the “Souper Bowl of Caring” raises more than $10 million on Super Bowl weekend by working with youth groups all across the county.
Current board member Wendy Sherman was a high school freshman active in the SVPC youth group in 1990.
If you had asked me 15 years ago whether it would still be going as strong as it is today, I wonder what I would have said. To me it was really important, but to think that the nation has really taken a hold of it… is really just amazing to me.
Sherman, now a special services instructor at Blythewood Middle School, says the Souper Bowl’s goal is still simple: youth groups across the country mobilize for Super Bowl weekend to raise money for the local food bank of their choice. The organization has raised at total of $70 million since its creation.
In Columbia, Harvest Hope Food Bank has been a large recipient of the money. The organization’s CEO Denise Holland says this weekend is critical for the food bank.
This is the third year of ongoing high rates of unemployment and high rates of poverty in South Carolina. When that happens, service delivery and service demands to feed hungry people are so much greater… but dollars coming into the organization are sometimes less because people don’t have as much.
Holland said Harvest Hope received $20,100 last year from Souper Bowl donations. She says every dollar was needed, as South Carolina suffers from the second-worst “food hardship” rate (the rate of families that lack the necessary money to buy food) in the country.
This is a tremendous program to help those hunger organizations have the money… to put right back out to meet the crisis of hunger.
Harvest Hope says each dollar they receive can buy five pounds of food.
Other food banks that serve South Carolina, such as Golden Harvest in Augusta, the Lowcountry Food Bank in Charleston, and Second Harvest of Metrolina in Charlotte also benefit heavily from the Souper Bowl donations.
Although the Souper Bowl’s headquarters remain in Columbia, the organization does not receive any money from other states. However, volunteers do spend a busy weekend keeping tabs on donations reported across the country. You can see the amount raised in real-time by visiting the group’s website.
It all makes Sherman proud to be one of those students who helped start it all 21 years ago.
It’s just been neat to be there from the beginning folding fliers to now participating on the board and hearing about the great work the Souper Bowl continues to do across the nation.