The message is simple: empty soup pots mean empty stomachs.
It is the message of Sunday's annual Souper Bowl of Caring, an event in which youth groups, such as those at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Evans, use pots to collect donations.
Golden Harvest Food Bank often is at the top of the list of recipients. The agency earmarks all the Souper Bowl proceeds it receives for its Master's Table soup kitchen.
The $14,000 in Souper Bowl donations it received last year represented a substantial part of the soup kitchen's 2002 budget, said Laurie Roper, volunteer and food drive director at Golden Harvest.
Though other Golden Harvest outlets benefit from other drives, the Souper Bowl "is probably the only big event just for the soup kitchen," she said.
This year's goal of $20,000 would translate into 60,000 meals in 2003. The kitchen serves more than 70,000 meals annually.
Some churches use the collection within the congregation, while other agencies, such as Area Churches Together Serving, also benefit from Souper Bowl contributions.
Besides the cash donations, First Baptist is "encouraging people to bring a soup, canned or dried, to donate to Columbia County Cares," said Pat Saunders, a member.
Nationally, the Souper Bowl generated $3.1 million in 2002, almost a third of the $16.7 million collected since the first Souper Bowl Sunday in 1990, started by a Columbia youth group. More than 10,000 churches participated in 2002.
Congregations report the amount collected to Souper Bowl organizers, who post a running total on the Web site, www.souperbowl.org.
For more information, call (800) 358-7687 (SOUP) or visit Souper Bowl of Caring's Web site at www.souperbowl.org.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.