An estimated 140 million Americans tune in to the Super Bowl with many heavily snacking throughout. Meanwhile, some 50 million across America face hunger.
That’s enough to fill more than 500 stadiums. The Souper Bowl of Caring movement, now in its 25th year, has inspired the community to raise more than $100 million since its inception. Nearly $8.5 million in cash and food items — some $60,000 in Arizona — was raised last year benefitting 6,500 charities.
Participating groups select the beneficiary, whether it’s a soup kitchen or a food bank. Then they simply report their total to the Souper Bowl of Caring.
Arizona has raised $933,000 through the effort since its inception. Youth groups from St. Steven in Sun Lakes and St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale are already registered for this year.
“Register your group, no matter how small. Collectively, we raise a lot,” Clara Cooper, chief executive officer for the Souper Bowl of Caring, said during the Jan. 14 community-wide kick off luncheon aimed at tackling hunger.
Guests sampled a hearty bowl of soup and salad while listening to a slew of guest speakers during the event hosted inside St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Dining room. Veteran television and radio personality Pat McMahon, emceed the football-themed luncheon. He said that hunger is a sad reality in Arizona no matter how successful the economy has been.
That keeps the 1,200 agencies in the Association of Arizona Food Banks network rather busy. One in five people in Arizona struggle with hunger, one in seven seniors and one in four children, said Brian Simpson, communications director.
“Children need to eat to grow, to learn and to do well in school and to have so many positive life outcomes,” Simpson said.
That’s what children in St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room are finding every weekday. Their grades have climbed as have their spirits and attitudes simply because donations allow children to eat well and enjoy stress-free time as a family plus bonus homework help and structured activities.
The family dining room is one of five St. Vincent de Paul operates across the Valley serving some 4,000 meals every day, Steve Zabilski, executive director, said.
“The kitchen is on the other side of here. I don’t think it ever closes,” he told the small lunch crowd.
That’s because the people and donors who help St. Vincent de Paul run are committed to helping end hunger and other disparities. That’s what members of the Serrano family — of East Valley restaurant fame — love about the organization.
“They’re always giving and there’s no question when you walk through the door,” said Stephanie Serrano, office manager.
The family has been taking the same quality food they serve in their restaurants — including the fresh tortillas — to St. Vincent de Paul’s Mesa dining room once a month for roughly 10 years. Ernie Serrano, vice president of operations, said they have gotten to know the regular volunteers and the guests.
He said it was a natural extension to support the Souper Bowl of Caring. A percentage of sales at all six Serrano’s locations on Jan. 27 will go back to St. Vincent de Paul. Chompie’s and the Biltmore-area California Pizza Kitchen are also hosting dine-in donation days the week before the Super Bowl.
The Grand Canyon Council of Boy Scouts of America also felt the Souper Bowl of Caring was n extension on its regular charitable efforts. Its leader, Larry Abbott, said the scouts moved up its annual Scouting for Food effort to better support the Souper Bowl of Caring. They collected more than 300,000 pounds last year.
Valley residents might find door hangers at their home Jan. 24 promoting the Jan. 31 collection. Needed items include granola bars, juice boxes, water, cereal, pasta, canned goods and peanut butter. All donors need to do is leave their items on their doorstep in a plastic grocery bag. The Boy Scouts will collect them and get them to a food bank.