Students at Allen D. Nease High School and Valley Ridge Academy tackled hunger in St. Johns County at this year’s first SOUPer Bowl soup tasting event.
The soup tasting event was held on Feb. 4 and featured 20 local chefs and their gourmet soups. The aim of the event was to raise $10,000 to benefit the Blessings in a Backpack service program at Nease, and specifically intended to add Webster Elementary students-in-need to the program. The event exceeded their goal through the help of corporate sponsors, donors and event attendees and ended the night with more than $20,000 to help fight hunger in St. Johns County.
The SOUPer Bowl featured local chefs from restaurants including The Floridian, The Ice Plant, Smoothie Fresh, The Raintree, and Blue Bamboo. There were also gourmet mocktails donated by Monin, and a bread table donated by Sysco Foods who also donated all the napkins, soup cups, and spoons for the event.
The sold out event received wonderful feedback from chefs and attendees. Chris Carabene, a chef from The Raintree explained that “giving back is the primary reason we attend these charity events. Our priority is to reach out and to these kids and help them as much as we can.” Tammy Moorefield, a mother of two Nease students, said, “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to support a local charity.”
The proceeds of the event were presented to the First Coast Blessings in a Backpack program in the form of a giant check. Robbin Ossi, a founding volunteer of St Johns County Blessings in a Backpack, explained, “The event was supposed to be a prototype to see if it could be an annual event [to benefit Blessings in a Backpack], and it’s been wonderful!”
More than 150 St. Johns County student volunteers helped to orchestrate the event. The volunteer force behind the event included Culinary Program students from St. Johns Technical College, Nease Hospitality and Tourism students, Nease art students, Nease senior and junior IB students, and Valley Ridge Academy students. The Culinary students acted as sous chefs, assisting the restaurant chefs for most of the event. Hospitality and Tourism students were hosts and hostess, as well as representatives for their Academy Showcase. Nease art students worked in the weeks before the event to create complimentary bowls for attendees to select and take home. Nease IB students acted as registration assistants, public relations teams, photographers and Ambassadors.
Ambassadors were paired with Valley Ridge Academy students who also worked at the event, together with their Nease counterpart, to welcome people and to assist throughout the event. Atharva Taiwade, a Nease junior, commented, “The volunteers were extremely helpful. They guide you to the right place and point out all the important stuff.” The joint effort between Valley Ridge Academy and Nease was created in order to benefit both of their Blessings in a Backpack efforts to feed fellow St. Johns County students.
Blessings in a Backpack is a national program that provides much-needed weekend food to children-in-need. Nearly 500 St Johns County students are currently served by the Blessings in a Backpack program, with many more on waiting lists. The cost to feed one student for the entire school year is $100. For information on how to donate, please email StudentsTackleHunger@gmail.com.