COLUMBIA —As fans melt cheese dip, crack open a cold beer and warm up their seats for the Super Bowl, organizations around Columbia are scrambling to capitalize on the event and collect donations for those who are less fortunate.
Each year as the Super Bowl approaches, churches, youth clubs and organizations in cities across the nation register to collect donations as part of the Souper Bowl of Caring. All of the cash and food donations received go directly to the registered food pantries or charities of the donation center's choice.
You can either donate to one of the current donation centers in Columbia listed on Souperbowl.org, click on the donations page, or register as a collection center on the same website.
The Souper Bowl of Caring was started in Columbia, S.C., in 1990, and collected more than $9.5 million in cash and food donations for more than 10,000 charities across the nation in 2011. So far this year, more than $3 million in cash and food donations has been collected to benefit 130 charities, with five active donation centers currently registered in Columbia.
Olivet Christian Church is participating for its fifth consecutive year and will be donating all of its Souper Bowl of Caring collections to the Russell Chapel Food Pantry. Last year it collected 250 pounds of food and $115.
“We already have an ongoing relationship in donations that we give to three food banks, so it seems like a natural fit,” said Angela Pigg, Christian education coordinator at Olivet Christian Church. “This focuses on our youth doing the advertising and the collecting and all of the promotional materials.”
Although Olivet Church limits direct participation in the drive to youths from grades six to 12, children as young as second grade took part in two-hour volunteer shifts at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri this month.
Memorial Baptist Church is another donation center, but the Souper Bowl is a church-wide effort instead of a youth-centric one.
Barrels are posted outside the sanctuary of Memorial Baptist so that people can drop off donations at their convenience. Associate pastor Chris Sisk said all collections will be donated to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri and Shepherd’s Basket Food Pantry.
Food banks see a drop in donations once holidays and the giving spirit that accompanies them are over, making food drives like the Souper Bowl of Caring very important, said Todd Pridemore, coordinator of special events and food drives at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
Last year there were 26 organizations, primarily churches, that collected 3,298 pounds of food and nearly $5,000 for the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. This year there are 24 organizations working with the food bank so far, and several more have opted to organize independent food drives instead of participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring.
“Cash goes further because with our connections with different wholesale grocers around the country, we can purchase approximately 15 pounds of food for every dollar donated, and that’s the equivalent of about 11 meals," Pridemore said. "So obviously we can get more with the dollar than the average shopper can at the grocery store.”
He added that some items that are always needed as donations are peanut butter and canned goods because they are expensive to ship due to their weight.