Touchdown! Like a full-field kick-off return, United Methodists scored 180,000 pounds of food for hungry people in five states during a Super Bowl food drive challenge.
United Methodists in four annual conferences — Great Plains (Kansas and Nebraska), Missouri, Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey — collected mostly non-perishable food during a friendly challenge between fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Great Plains communicator David Burke reported his conference scored 55,367 pounds of food, while neighboring Missouri gathered 50,000 pounds. Meanwhile, Eagles backers in Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey collected 74,560 pounds for church and community food banks.
On Eastern Pennsylvania’s website, John W. Coleman reported representatives of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey conferences will receive bottles of renowned barbecue sauce from Kansas City, which straddles the Missouri and Great Plains conferences. The two Midwest conferences will get Philadelphia’s famous TastyKake pastries, also beloved in New Jersey, and — what else? — Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
The challenge energized United Methodists in both regions to go above and beyond their initial goals, Coleman reported. For example, Methodists in New Brunswick, N.J., collected not only 200 pounds of food but also $1,234 to purchase more food for their nightly dinner ministry, he said.
“This collection will be a great help in supporting our mission,” Pastor Cyndi Stouffer noted.
Coleman also said Belvidere United Methodist Church in New Jersey received 755 pounds of donated food.
“Although the Eagles lost, our community won with all your generosity.”
“Although the Eagles lost, our community won with all your generosity,” Pastor Janice McCrostie said. “You all are a blessing to Belvidere and our surrounding townships!”
Whether Chiefs or Eagles fans, churches in both regions, which already collect and give food to local food banks, said they received extra donations because of the Super Bowl challenge.
Enthusiasm and gratitude for the accomplishment were as clear as Patrick Mahomes’ passes in videos posted by the bishops of the participating annual conferences.
Missouri Bishop Bob Farr said the 75,000 pounds of food collected by Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey “blew me away.”
“Imagine all the good that will do,” he said.
In Eastern Pennsylvania’s video, Bishop John Schol, wearing a bright red jersey with Mahomes’ number 15, said: “You’ve inspired us to do this every year, whether the three football teams in our area are in the Super Bowl or not,” referring to the Eagles and New York’s two teams, the Giants and the Jets.
Bishop David Wilson said he and Farr agreed with Schol’s proposal for an annual Super Bowl drive.
“We need to do this every year, regardless of who might be playing,” Wilson said. “We’re planning to do this from here on out. We all had such a good time …. We did what we needed to do. That was pretty neat.”
Cynthia B. Astle is a veteran journalist who has covered the worldwide United Methodist Church at all levels for more than 30 years. She serves as editor of United Methodist Insight, an online journal she founded in 2011. Contributing to this article were communications directors John W Coleman (Eastern Pennsylvania) and Todd Seifert (Great Plains) and Missouri publications director Fred Koenig.
Great Plains video featuring Bishop David Wilson
Eastern Pennsylvania video featuring Bishop John Schol
Missouri video featuring Bishop Bob Farr and Kansas City District Superintendent David Gilmore
A photo gallery of Great Plains Conference collections.