December 1999: Vol. 79, No. 1

Souper Bowl of Caring scores big

Brad Smith's idea that the Super Bowl should benefit mankind has mushroomed into a $2.5 million charity windfall

By S.B. Crawford

It is a day of worship, of sorts. A day when millions around the world submit to the gods of commerce and marketing. A day of beer-soaked, nacho-cheese dipped overindulgence. Super Bowl Sunday. And so it was in January 1988, as the Washington Redskins readied to devour the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. In Columbia, S.C., meanwhile, a 25-year-old seminary student was cooking up some food for thought.

To participate in Smith's fundraiser, churches take up a collection, then call 800-788-3589 to report the size and nature of their donation.
Brad Smith (BSEd '84), who was interning at the Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, wanted to remind the congregation that there was something greater than this day of hyper-consumerism. His prayer was conceived as a simple pun:

"As we enjoy the Super Bowl game, help us to be mindful of those who don't even have a bowl of soup to eat."

Smith's prayer grew into an inspired idea: on Super Bowl Sunday, churches would ask their members to donate one dollar—collected in soup pots—to feed the hungry in the local community. A few months later, Smith became associate pastor at Spring Valley, and with the help of teenagers from the church he put the idea into action. In 1989, 22 churches in Columbia collected $5,700. Ten years later, the Souper Bowl of Caring expects to exceed last year's total $2.5 million—from 11,300 congregations across the U.S.

"The beauty of it is that every dollar collected at that local congregation is sent directly to a soup kitchen, food bank, or another charity that they choose," says Smith. "We don't touch it."

No registration is required. Churches call 800-788-3589 to report the amount collected and where the money will go. "We have folks from every state, and from 40 or 50 different denominations—some of which can't agree on how you baptize somebody or how many sacraments there ought to be," says Smith. "Sometimes we forget what good can be accomplished when we all pitch in."

The National Football League has been watching Brad's charity offshoot with interest. "Conceptually, it is a very nice program," says NFL spokesman Chris Widmaier. The Souper Bowl's actual relationship with corporate football is more complicated. While individual teams like this year's Super Bowl host Atlanta Falcons have endorsed the charity, the NFL continues to keep Smith at arm's length. Two years ago, when the Souper Bowl began getting interest from corporate sponsors, NFL lawyers sent Smith a terse letter informing him of the definition of "copyright infringement." Smith says the NFL doesn't want corporations to see the Souper Bowl as a discount avenue into the big-game hype.

Married for 12 years and the father of three, Smith knows his Souper Bowl isn't a panacea for the world's ills. He thinks of it as a mustard seed in the consciousness of the nation. "The pendulum of Super Bowl consumerism is way over here," he says, extending his arms. "This little Souper Bowl brings it back a little bit. But if it can capture people's imaginations, then it can really do some good."

Steve Crawford is assistant metro editor of the Augusta Chronicle.

Friend profile:

A legacy of giving

Grace Hartley believes it's what you leave behind that's important

By Denise H. Horton (ABJ '83)

Hartley has met all 52 recipients of the consumer journalism scholarship established in her name in '72.
At 94, Grace Hartley continues to give. Until recently, the former Atlanta Constitution food editor still worked two days a week at St. Phillip's Episcopal Thrift Store in downtown Atlanta. A broken hip and three operations have forced her to slow down, but her impact on UGA students continues unabated.

"There's no reason to live unless you have something to give," says Hartley, who although not a graduate of the University has long served as an ambassador for UGA's College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Hartley has taken time to meet each of the 52 student consumer journalists who have received the Grace Hartley Scholarship, established in 1972 by several groups, including the Georgia Egg Commission, to honor her contributions to the food industry.

"I'm going to start another scholarship," says Hartley. "This one will be for an international student."

Hartley arrived in Atlanta in 1932 with a home economics degree from the Georgia College for Women in Milledgeville. Her first job was with a social service agency where, in the depth of the Depression, she taught social workers how to plan meals for families and instructed people in food preparation.

Hartley never intended to be a writer, but that all changed after a meeting with Atlanta Journal advertising director George Biggers about an opening for a food editor.

"I went over there and Biggers said, 'I want you back here at 3 p.m.,'" Hartley recalls. "I told him I wasn't sure if I could do the job. And he said, 'If I'm willing to take a chance, then you ought to be.'"

"I only stayed for 42 years," says Hartley. "I wrote about anything pertaining to food and new ideas. "I went to all the farmers' markets. I was into everything."

To visit with Ms. Hartley is to gain an understanding of the massive changes food has undergone in the past century.

Not only did she have one of the first electric ranges in Atlanta, she also had perhaps the first microwave, a massive piece of equipment that stood 5 feet tall—as tall as Hartley—with a conventional oven underneath.

"You would start out cooking a ham or a turkey in the microwave and then finish it in the oven," she explains.

While many food editors weren't cooks in those early days, Hartley was.

"I had a big house and a big kitchen and dining room," she says. "I could have 75 people for a party. I could leave the office at 4 p.m., invite a dozen people to come for dinner at 6 p.m., and have everything ready."

Hartley believes today's food sections are missing a key ingredient. "The people writing for the food pages now are all good writers and good eaters," she says, but what's missing is "that feeling of close communion with the reader. I visited readers' homes. I'd find out they did something special and I'd take a photographer and off we'd go. I went all over the state, from the mountains to the sea."

Denise Horton (ABJ '83) is director of communications for UGA's College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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