Greater Rockbridge area comes together to support the sixth annual Souper Bowl

Washington and Lee’s Evans Dining Hall was packed this Sunday to support Campus Kitchen’s Backpack Program


Photo courtesy of Campus Kitchen

Laura Calhoun

The Super Bowl may not be happening in Minneapolis until next weekend, but over 700 people tasted over 20 soups from local restaurants, bakeries and caterers at Campus Kitchen’s sixth annual Souper Bowl, on Sunday, Jan. 28.

Jenny Davidson, co-curricular service coordinator with the Shepherd program, organizes the fundraiser every year.

“I love this event because I feel like it so perfectly demonstrates one of our goals of Campus Kitchen in terms of building community,” Davidson said. “I don’t know of any other event that merges campus and community quite as well as this one.”

A mixture of Rockbridge County residents, Lexington locals, and Washington and Lee students were seated at each table in Evans Dining Hall for the event. Members of the community bonded with students over plates full of soup samples from local businesses.

The Souper Bowl, sponsored by the financial advisory firm CAPTRUST, benefits the Campus Kitchen Backpack Program. CAPTRUST covers the cost of the event, so all donations benefit Campus Kitchen’s Backpack Program.

Hannah Witherell, ‘20, has led the Backpack Program for two years and serves as an executive member of the Campus Kitchen Leadership Team.

“The Backpack Program allows the Campus Kitchen to serve over 700 Rockbridge County elementary and middle school students every week,” Witherell said.

Since 2009, the Backpack Program has provided bags of food to students on Friday afternoons to eat over the weekend, which is a time when students who receive free or reduced lunch often go without meals.

In 2017, the Souper Bowl raised a record $11,000 for the Backpack Program. The 2018 goal is between $8,000 and $11,000. Members of the Campus Kitchen Leadership Team estimated 800 people attended the event and that they raised over $10,000. They will reveal the final total this week.

This year, the Souper Bowl focused on sustainability because many participating restaurants expressed interest in making the event more environmentally-friendly.

For the first time, Souper Bowl guests received compostable tasting cups instead of styrofoam cups. Implementing the new sustainable initiatives, however, presented some challenges.

“It was an issue of sourcing a paper cup that was the right size,” Davidson said.

Campus Kitchen also partnered with the Student Environmental Action League (SEAL) to ensure that the waste from the event was composted. Matthew Rickert, ‘18, led the compost crew.

Dannick Kenon ‘19, who serves as a member of the Campus Kitchen Leadership Team and the treasurer/secretary for SEAL, said he was excited when given the opportunity to help make the event more sustainable.

Kenon said that Davidson, W&L Dining Services, and Kim Hodge, the director of sustainability initiatives and education, have been integral throughout the process.

“They are definitely people who care about the environment and the community, which, I think, go hand in hand,” Kenon said.

Shane Gonsalves, of Sweet Treats Bakery, said getting involved in the Souper Bowl was a given.

“When she first started to put together a program, we jumped on the bandwagon,” Gonsalves said. “It’s something that we had to do for the community. It’s all about the kids.”

For dessert, Sweet Treats Bakery provided a sheet cake. The Campus Kitchen Leadership Team also baked brownies.

This year’s participants include the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, Kind Roots Café and W&L Dining Services, among many others. Cattleman’s and LexMex Tacos will be joining the Souper Bowl team for the first time.

Kenon said the Souper Bowl is one of his favorite Campus Kitchen events.

“It really does warm my heart to see so many people showing up to enjoy good soup, to enjoy good conversations, and to help those in need,” Kenon said. “It’s our most popular event because of the people who go to it and because of the people who help.”