Millions of people will be tuning in this Sunday as The Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. But that won’t be the only competition taking place as fans for both teams compete for a worthy cause.
Churches and other organizations across the country will be participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring, an idea generated by the Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina in 1990. Since then churches have used the big game as a catalyst to collect food and money to help those facing food security issues.
Churches in both Denver and Charlotte have been “talking smack” this year, challenging each community to see who can collect the most food and dollars to fight hunger. Youth groups from Myers Park Presbyterian Church and other churches in Charlotte have taken to social media to challenge their counterparts in Denver.
“It was a last-minute decision to see if we could pull together a video challenge with Denver,” said Michelle Thomas-Bush, associate pastor for Youth and their Families. “Nine churches participated in this video and the youth have been using social media to send it everywhere.”
Wellshire Presbyterian Church in Denver says the competition has taken on a life of its own.
“As soon as we knew who was playing in the Super Bowl, some of us at Wellshire started getting emails from pastors in Charlotte,” said Katie Robb Davis, associate pastor. “We became aware that the United Methodist Church had a competition as well, so we united with them in this effort.”
Robb Davis says every Denver church involved is collecting food and money and donating it to a community food pantry of their choice. As many as 150 Denver churches and organizations are participating. Robb Davis appeared before the Denver City Council Monday night and the Colorado Legislature began dropping donations off at the church on Tuesday.
“We hope to feed as many people as we possible can, knowing that there are 15 million hungry children that are considered food insecure in the U.S.,” she said. “We know as many as 110 million people will watch the Super Bowl. The reality is, with that many people donating, we could end hunger in this country.”
Myers Park youth contacted “Loaves and Fishes,” a program started by the First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte which makes the donations available to various local food banks.
“The campaign has been going very well. I can look out and see 1,000 cans just sitting in our church lobby,” said Thomas-Bush. “People are just dropping donations by. In their social media efforts, the youth have been encouraging people to host Super Bowl parties and charge admission with canned goods.”
Thomas-Bush adds that people across North Carolina have been asking to join the campaign and they’ve been warmly received.
“There has been some smack talk. We decided as a church to bring 18 cans of food for all of the Panthers’ wins this season,” she said. “But we realized that if Denver did the same, they could only bring 14 cans for their 14 wins.”
Wellshire, however, is looking at the number 18 a bit differently.
“Everyone has been very excited. We wore our Broncos clothes to church last Sunday and suggested people bring 18 items in honor of number 18 Peyton Manning, who is also a Presbyterian,” said Robb Davis. “People are getting a good laugh out of it and feel like their Super Bowl fever can go to a good cause as well.”
Both campaigns are expected to deliver the goods to the various organizations on Monday after the Super Bowl.
“Last year, Souper Bowl raised more than $8 million nationwide. The spirit of generosity clearly exists and we produce more than enough food for everyone, yet poverty and inequality in our nation prevent many from enjoying this basic human right,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for National Hunger Concern. “As people with faith in the imminent kingdom of God, let us join in the difficult work of reshaping systems that prevent the flourishing of life.”
The Presbyterian Hunger Program works with Presbyterians and other partners to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes, responding with compassion and justice to poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world. Click here for more information about the program.
For information on donating to the Souper Bowl of Caring through the Presbyterian Hunger Program click here.