The Salvation Army‘s ’SOUPer Bowl’ celebrates 25th anniversary in Jackson, Mississippi
By: Brad Rowland
In 1998, The Salvation Army launched an initiative in Jackson, Mississippi with the aim to raise awareness of hunger in the local community while raising vital funds to support the organization’s social services programming. More than two decades later, the work continues, and on Feb. 13, the 25th annual “SOUPer Bowl” event delivered on that focus.
Over a four-hour period, The Salvation Army distributed more than 125 gallons of soup donated by more than 25 local restaurants. Though the event has featured in-person gatherings in the past, the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a change in 2022, with the utilization of a drive-through format to keep guests, volunteers, and staff safe.
While there have been celebrity servers on site in the past, the pivot included virtual visits from prominent names including former LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron, New Orleans Saints player Brad Leggett, and Holly Brand, Miss Mississippi 2021. These celebrity ambassadors helped to spread the word of the SOUPer Bowl online and through social media channels, broadening the reach and increasing awareness of those in need in the Jackson area.
Soups were distributed in pre-packaged containers for on-the-go consumption, and they were also accompanied by hand-painted bowls produced by Mustard Seed of Mississippi. Mustard Seed is an organization that indicates a goal “to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of adults with developmental disabilities by providing a loving and protected Christian community with meaningful activities that allow the participants to fulfill the potential that God has created within them.”
Before, during and after the event, the 25th annual SOUPer Bowl was aided by the work of The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary in Jackson, as well as community volunteers, local businesses, and corporate sponsors.
“Our women’s auxiliary, the army behind the army, is such a blessing to The Salvation Army and to our community,” said Major Brenda Shafer, corps officer. “The Salvation Army alone could not put on the SOUPer Bowl event without their time, talents, and dedication in making it all happen. We also have a wonderful community of individuals, restaurants and corporations who volunteer, donate, and sponsor this event as well as other events throughout the year to help others in need in the Jackson metro area.”
In addition to the soup distribution, an online auction helped to raise more than $14,500 to help others. The auction featured nearly 100 items including autographed memorabilia and electronics, with items donated by advisory board and women’s auxiliary members.
Plans are already in the works for the 26th edition of the SOUPer Bowl in 2023, and the event is one of many outreach efforts from The Salvation Army in the community.
“Our SOUPer Bowl event is truly an effort in doing the most good for our community,” Major Shafer said. “And we are so grateful for everyone who participated.”