While visiting Austin in January, I was accosted in the local supermarket. The perpetrator? The HEB cashier, who after ringing me up, singsonged what’s become a common refrain heard in supermarket check-outs across the country: “would you like to make a donation today?”
I looked up and there was the unexpected: the donation itself. Usually, I’m presented with an electronic choice on the credit card machine, a simple yes or no accompanied by a bored-sounding cashier’s “ask.” Having created a personal philanthropy plan I usually stick to it, only saying yes when the donation is earmarked for one of my chosen causes.
But this cashier was holding up a brown grocery bag. Inside were cans of vegetables and meat, enough to feed four people who wouldn’t otherwise eat dinner that night. $5 per bag. I looked down at the snack pack of goldfish crackers and bottle of wine I’d thrown into my cart on a whim. How could I say no? And WHY would I say no?
I didn’t know at the time, but I’d just contributed to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas’ local Souper Bowl of Caring Campaign: mine was one of $1,000,000 meals that were donated. I also didn’t know that in January, 2012, 3,000+ groups participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring raised $5,323,124 in cash and food for charities fighting hunger in seven US cities.
Food donation drives are no novel thing. But the Souper Bowl is not a drive, it’s a “national youth-led movement of schools, congregations, community organizations and compassionate individuals joining together to fight hunger and poverty in their local communities, transforming the time around the Super Bowl into the nation’s largest celebration of giving and serving.”
One of my favorite Hebrew words is “Dayenu,” translated roughly as “it would have been enough” and used in this context: if I had only paid for the contents of that shopping bag and fed a family for one night, then “Dayenu.” But I contributed to building a transformative movement in the fight against hunger. For now, this too is “Dayenu.” But speaking as a kid who was involved early on, through Quaker schooling and family practice, in volunteerism and generous acts, I know that the children who’ve built the Souper Bowl of Caring in the last 20 years will continue their good works into adulthood and change their communities. So someday, perhaps we can say, “We fed the world. Dayenu.”
Since the Souper Bowl of Caring started in 1990, volunteers have collected more than $81 million in dollars and cans, with 100 percent of all donations going directly to community food banks, soup kitchens or other charities chosen by each group. For more information or to join the team, visit www.tacklehunger.org. For more informational about the Capital Area Food Bank, visit www.austinfoodbank.org.