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Everyone was a winner in Super Bowl Food Challenge

Everyone was a winner in Super Bowl Food Challenge

Fill The Table Missions and Outreach

While the National Football League teams from Kansas City and Tampa Bay fought for Super Bowl supremacy on the field, United Methodist churches in those areas also engaged in a spirited competition.

In the latter case, there were no losers.

The District Food Bank Challenge called on churches in each local district to collect nonperishable items and donate them to their local food banks. The idea came together quickly after the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers qualified for the Super Bowl.

It started with the Rev. Debbie Hull, a deacon and pastor of children's and missions ministry at Fairway Old Mission UMC at Fairway Old Mission UMC in Fairway, Kansas.

"We decided to do a friendly competition between Tampa United Methodist churches and ours," Hull  told

Hull reached out to the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Weems, Superintendent of the South East District of the Florida United Methodist Conference. Weems grew up in Kansas and is a Chiefs fan. She quickly connected Hull with Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis, Superintendent of the Gulf Central District, which covers the Tampa Bay area, and it was game on!

"Food drives are always helpful to provide staples to those most in need," Weems said.

"This year, food drives are even more needed as the most basic items for families to make ends meet are harder and harder to come by as food insecurity continues in dramatic numbers in our metropolitan areas."

The Challenge quickly evolved from a simple church-vs.-church competition to a Districtwide event in both Conferences. They asked parishioners to donate nonperishable food items until February 7, the day of the Super Bowl game.

Teams received credit for a pound of food for each dollar spent. 

Members of St. Paul's UMC in Lenexa, Kansas participate in the food challenge. -- Facebook photo

The football game went Tampa Bay's way as the Buccaneers scored a 31-9 upset victory.

"As a Chiefs fan, I hoped for a better game. I attended my first KC game when I was 14," Weems said. "However, I am thrilled for all of my Tampa Bay fan friends and the great state of Florida."

The Food Challenge went Kansas City's way. 

In the Gulf Central District, 41 churches reported 84,154 pounds of food and cash collected.
The Kansas City District had an impressive collection of 275,269 pounds of food and cash from 15 churches.

"Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, but Kansas City won the Challenge," Lewis said. "The response was great. People immediately started bringing in fresh canned goods to their churches. Big and small churches participated.

"This was above and beyond people's regular giving, I thought it went very well, especially with the short window of time. It exceeded our expectations, considering how late the Challenge opened. That was the important thing. No matter what, the food panties won."

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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