Souper Bowl stirs up community service efforts

W&L’s Campus Kitchen organization hosts third annual Souper Bowl event

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Lexington restaurants dish out bowls of their best soups at the Souper Bowl to support Washington and Lee’s Campus Kitchen.

In Lexington, a bowl of soup not only fills a hungry stomach but also brings people together for community service work.

About 500 people attended Campus Kitchen’s third annual Souper Bowl event in Evans Dining Hall on Sunday, featuring soups from 15 Lexington restaurants and Washington and Lee Dining Services.

All proceeds benefitted Campus Kitchen’s Backpack Program, through which the organization provides snacks to over 700 children in the Rockbridge area. Over $6,500 was raised from the Souper Bowl, making up a quarter of the whole budget for the program.

“It’s a really good picture of what the Campus Kitchen does in general—bringing campus and the community together,” said Jenny Davidson, one of the event coordinators.

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Campus Kitchen is run as a partnership with the Shepherd Poverty Program. It focuses on leadership development and hunger relief in Rockbridge County, utilizing extra food from on- and off-campus dining services and local non-profits

Lori Frascati, Director of Client Service at Davidson & Garrard, started the program in Lexington after partaking in a similar event in Davidson, North Carolina. She has partnered with W&L all three years, working this year with Davidson and AnnMarie Wakely ‘15 to coordinate and spearhead the event.

“There weren’t as many students involved [when the Souper Bowl started] because it was more of an adult reaching out to them,” said Wakely. “So I thought maybe I could help, being a student myself, by getting involved and hopefully getting more students to [come to] the event.”

Aside from students, Davidson said a lot of the people who attend each year come straight from church since the event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Wakely also said a “crucial piece” to this year’s Souper Bowl was incorporating more community involvement, with volunteers from the Llyburn Downing Middle School Beta Club and the Girl Scouts of Rockbridge County making table decorations.

Admission to the Souper Bowl was $15 per person, $40 for families and $10 for students. Davidson thought these prices made the event “inclusive since the expense [wasn’t] excessively high.”

The venue is reserved about a year in advance, while the bulk of the planning takes place in the fall when the restaurants are reminded to start preparing.

Davidson said that part of the package is the Campus Kitchen is advertising for them. While she was not sure whether turnout increased business for the restaurants, she said that they “enjoy the event enough that they’re happy to come back each year.”

“Having the opportunity to taste from all of the restaurants is… really fun,” said Davidson. She said that as the Souper Bowl became more of a tradition, she was excited to try all of the different soups.

“The Kind Roots Roasted Red Pepper Soup was my favorite,” said Peyton Bryant ’17. “I really enjoyed the Souper Bowl because it was great to see the community come together. I do Young Life so I was happy to see a lot of the kids I work with show up.”

Davidson also said the atmosphere makes the event attractive for people. Aside from all of the soups to taste, there are performances from two of W&L’s a cappella groups, JubiLee and General Admission.

“It’s an incredibly lively atmosphere for a cappella because it’s not a typical performer-audience relationship,” said General Admission member Thomas Day ’15. “It makes the performance a lot more engaging.”

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This year attendees also enjoyed an additional dessert option to Sweet Treats cupcakes—cookies supplied by Mary’s Cookie Charter, a vendor from the Lexington Farmer’s Market.

Without this fundraiser, most of the funds for the Backpack Program come from grant writing. The program has grown a lot since 2009 though, when Campus Kitchen only partnered with Natural Bridge Elementary School. It is now partnered with around 10 schools.

“We hope that [it] is reducing hunger over the weekend given the food insecurity issue,” said Davidson.

Wakely said that seeing the atendees enjoying the event makes all of the hard work and planning worthwhile.

“At the end of the day, my face literally hurts because we’ve all worked so hard on this for four months,” said Wakely. “When it’s finally here and we get to see everyone enjoying themselves, it puts a permanent smile on my face.”