It may be Super Bowl weekend in most places, but among the charitable in Manhattan it’s Souper Bowl weekend.
It’s a weekend when individuals are asked to donate cans of soup at grocery stores, or bring them to their local churches or schools for donation to the Flint Hills Breadbasket.
Marybeth Kieffer, director of the breadbasket, said the First Baptist Church always provides volunteers for the Saturday collection, along with the Breadbasket’s staff. She said they break up into two teams, each with their own grocery cart, stationed in front of the doors at the Westloop Dillons. When people bring out donations, the donor is asked to pick which team is likely to win the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, the cash and food donations for each team are tallied up, and the winner of the Dillons Souper Bowl is announced.
Last year Kieffer said they collected about 2,750 pounds of food and $269 in donations from the Saturday drive and local schools participating in the yearly event.
This year several area churches have sent out announcements to their parishioners to bring food to those churches on Sunday for the event.
The event was started in Manhattan in the mid-‘90s by Bill Kennedy, then the county attorney, after he attended a charity dinner at Kansas State University.
Kennedy said Jack Parr, former K-State basketball player and motivational speaker, talked about Parr’s efforts in Salina in making Souper Bowl Sunday a big hit.
Kennedy said three elements made the event a success: hype, collection locations and a central facility. He took advantage of the hype surrounding the Super Bowl to help the collection efforts. He decided the locations would be with the churches, and went to the council of pastors. He told the council they would have to do “nothing, just let [him] put a big garbage can” in front of their churches. He said the “new and clean” cans were donated by one of the local garbage collection companies. The central facility was, of course, the Flint Hills Breadbasket.
Then Kennedy went to the county commission with his tongue-in-cheek humor and announced the food drive by disparaging the “hype” surrounding the Super Bowl.
He convinced some of the city and county commissioners to stand outside Dillons grocery store on the Saturday prior, and ask customers to bring out a can of soup for the cause.
“Our goal was to run Dillons out of soup,” Kennedy said. “We gave it a good shot.”