By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Before watching the Super Bowl, consider swinging by Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church with a few canned goods for its Souper Bowl of Caring food drive, set for Feb. 1 and 2.
Non-perishable food and monetary donations — write checks to “RBCPC Souper Bowl” — should be brought to the church before or after the 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 service or anytime between 8 a.m. and noon Sunday, Feb. 2. Those who cannot contribute during those times may bring donations to the church office through Feb. 9. Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church is at 17010 Pomerado Road.
The 13th annual local food drive is part of a nationwide effort that was inspired by a prayer said in 1990 by a seminary intern at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C. Brad Smith reportedly said, “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat,” according to the fundraiser’s website.
The Souper Bowl of Caring food drive, held in conjunction with the Super Bowl, has since spread nationwide. Last year more than $7.5 million in cash and food items were collected by 8,151 participating groups, which helped 6,632 charities. The primary participants are churches, which were 76 percent of groups. Schools, businesses and civic organizations have also joined in the effort, according to the event’s website.
Among those participating in California last year, RB Community Presbyterian came in first among 180 groups, with $8,326 worth of contributions. Since it joined the endeavor in 2001 it has collected a combined $45,309 and 58,462 food items, and it has ranked first in the state seven of the last 11 years and never placed lower than third since 2003. Its record was in 2010 when it came in first among 330 groups in California for collecting $16,846 worth of food and money.
Co-Chairwoman Jeanne Armstrong said Interfaith Community Services in Escondido and Presbyterian Urban Ministries in downtown San Diego will once again be the recipients. Both have programs that help the homeless and those struggling financially. Besides providing food, the organizations have programs that help with job placement and self-sufficiency. For example, she said Presbyterian Urban Ministries has given those who were hired for construction jobs work boots required to begin employment which the newly hired could not afford to purchase.
Armstrong said the Souper Bowl is an intergenerational project that involves pre-schoolers through senior citizens. Among those leading the volunteer effort this year are the church’s middle school youth, Carpenters Fellowship and Boy Scout Troop 680.
The Boy Scouts recently attached fliers promoting the event to grocery bags donated by Albertsons and Vons, she said. The bags were distributed last weekend and will be again this coming weekend by middle school students after church services. The Carpenters Fellowship members are helping throughout with logistics.
“It’s truly amazing and truly exciting,” Armstrong said about the response each year. “(The youths) race out to the cars (to accept donations). It’s fun to see the teenagers serving God, each other and the community.”
While the majority of donors are church members, Armstrong said many in the Rancho Bernardo and Poway communities also contribute to the effort.