Campus Kitchen’s Souper Bowl raises money to fight food insecurity

Proceeds from the event will fund Campus Kitchen’s backpack program


Emma Malinak

Connor Lafo, ’26, and Tom Finnegan, ’26, serve chili from the Southern Inn.

Emma Malinak, Arts & Life Editor

Washington and Lee’s Campus Kitchen hosted its 11th annual Souper Bowl on Feb. 5, celebrating the event in person for the first time since 2020.
Lexington’s restaurants partnered with the university to prepare about 200 gallons of soup on the Sunday before Super Bowl LVII. Students, faculty members and Lexington residents were invited to sample the 20 varieties of soup in Evans Hall while enjoying live music.
Campus Kitchen is an organization that aims to address the issue of food insecurity in Lexington and Rockbridge County. One of its main projects, the backpack program, provides food to local children and is funded by the Souper Bowl.
Before the pandemic, the Souper Bowl consistently met its goal of raising $10,000 every year, Campus Kitchen Coordinator Ryan Brink said. But raising money was difficult when the event was remotely run in restaurants in 2021 and conducted only with to-go dining in 2022.
“We’re really excited to be moving back in person,” Brink said. “It’s been two years since we’ve had the event in this format, and that’s a lot of lost memory and lost momentum that we had built up over the years.”
Campus Kitchen’s finance and fundraising committee, led by Campus Kitchen Treasurer Jensen Rocha, ’23, has been planning the event since early November to ensure that it is as successful as it was pre-pandemic. Rocha said she remembers the “community atmosphere” of the in-person Souper Bowl that was held when she was a first-year student, and she was excited to make this year’s event just as welcoming.
Jensen and other committee members Emma Conover, ’24, Lizzy Nguyen, ’25, and Lela Casey, ’25, have worked together to organize the event, from recruiting restaurants to provide soup to booking performers like the “Hot Fudge Sundae” band and “JubiLee” acapella group.
But Rocha said the event wouldn’t be possible without help from other members of the community. Lexington restaurants, including Southern Inn Restaurant, Pure Eats, Pronto, Heliotrope and Salerno prepared food for the event. W&L Dining and Campus Kitchen provided soups as well, and about 30 student volunteers helped with set up and serving.
All of the proceeds from the Souper Bowl will be used to fund Campus Kitchen’s backpack program. The program, founded in 2009, recognized that children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school may go hungry over the weekend. To close the meal gap, W&L volunteers pack about 1,300 bags with shelf-stable food products every week and deliver them to 17 local schools, Brink said.
Rocha said she is proud of the positive impact the program has on local children.
“We’re able to help meet a really important gap that’s currently not being addressed in the system,” Rocha said. “That means a lot to me because I know it means a lot to people in the community.”
In addition to the backpack program, volunteers at Campus Kitchen transform food that would otherwise go to waste into balanced meals for low-income residents of Rockbridge County. They also collaborate with community organizations to provide groceries through a mobile food pantry. Brink said that 350 to 400 students volunteer for Campus Kitchen every year and keep these programs running efficiently.
A main goal of Campus Kitchen is to promote awareness among W&L students of nutrition and food system issues. Rocha said that even though she knew relatively little about food insecurity when she joined the organization as a first-year student, she has learned throughout her time as a volunteer.
“Through Campus Kitchen I’ve really learned a lot of the barriers to food that people face, both from low income and because the greater Rockbridge area is a food desert,” she said. “And [I’ve learned] a lot about systemic issues in the American food system.”
Donations can be made to Campus Kitchen at the following link: