Story and photos by Jon Blauvelt via pontevedrarecorder.com.
The SOUPer Bowl returned to Nease High School on Thursday, Feb. 1, for the third consecutive year, and the event did not disappoint, hosting 23 local restaurants and nearly 500 people and raising over $29,000 for First Coast Blessings in a Backpack.
Chef David Cressler from Sawgrass Country Club won the People’s Choice Award for best soup of the night, with his Posole Verde. Several other First Coast restaurants, many of which came from Ponte Vedra, provided samples of their most popular chowders, stews and bisques to event attendees, and proceeds ultimately helped address childhood hunger in St. Johns County.
The recipient of the funds, First Coast Blessings in a Backpack is a nonprofit organization that provides consistent weekend nutrition for children on the program. Children relying on the federal free and reduced meal program don’t always have meals waiting for them when they go home after school, event organizers said. As a result, Blessings in a Backpack packs food items for these kids and sends it home with them on the weekends.
The SOUPer Bowl’s proceeds will specifically benefit St. Johns County, which First Coast Blessings in a Backpack Managing Director Kimberly Ward said is home to 800 kids and 14 schools who/that the nonprofit serves.
SOUPer Bowl co-chair Becky Dykstra explained that several organizations and groups at Nease are involved in organizing the fundraiser, ranging from the school’s hospitality and communications academies to International Baccalaureate (IB) students fulfilling service hours. Dykstra noted that 10 local schools were involved in this year’s “Be the Change” campaign, which was a coin/change drive to raise additional funds. Bartram Trail High School ultimately raised the most money via that campaign with $3,100. Dykstra also said that nine area schools were also involved in creating handcrafted bowls that event attendees took home as mementos from the event.
The SOUPer Bowl was founded two years ago after a group of parents decided to establish a fundraising event to help Blessings in a Backpack raise awareness and funds for its cause.
“What makes this so unique is we involve so many different kids,” said Dykstra. “It’s a really nice evening for the community to come together and to enjoy great food and fellowship for a great cause.”