SHAMOKIN - Parishioners attending services in area churches Sunday will take on the challenge of fighting hunger by participating in a national event called "Souper Bowl of Caring," an annual food and financial drive coordinated with pro football's Super Bowl.

The event, sponsored locally by the Shamokin Area Ministerium of Churches, will benefit Manna for the Many, the Shamokin area's food pantry.

Donated can goods will help maintain a sufficient inventory of food supplies for Manna in its quest to continue feeding area families in need.

Any cash donations will purchase food from local suppliers for Manna's inventory.

Manna's board members have affirmed that the vision behind the Souper Bowl of Caring is to transform the occasion of the Super Bowl into a day of caring and unity.

More than 20 years ago, the Souper Bowl of Caring began with a single prayer from a single youth group in a North Carolina church. The prayer, "Lord, as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us to be mindful of those without even a bowl of soup to eat," is again used to emphasize the need for providing food to the hungry. Since that day, more than $81 million has been raised for local charities throughout the country. It has become a powerful movement that is transforming Super Bowl weekend into the nation's largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving.

As in past years, parishioners attending services in churches of their choice are asked to donate one dollar in cash and/or a can of soup. Youth are urged to get involved in collecting monetary and food donations. All donations collected remain in this area to purchase food supplies and maintain an inventory of commodies for distribution to clients registered at Manna.

Thrivent grant

In an added benefit this year, Manna has been chosen to receive a challenge grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, through the Trinity Lutheran Church, Sunbury Street. Thrivent will donate 50 cents for every dollar donated to Manna for the Many up to $5,000 for all donations received between Dec. 1 and March 31. Manna for the Many and Trinity Lutheran Church invite area churches to work together to meet or exceed this challenge grant.

Representatives of participating churches are asked to report the amount of money and food donations by calling the Grace Lutheran Church office 570-648-7534 between 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday and leaving a message. Last year, parishioners donated more than $1,200 and 1,700 cans of soup. The Souper Bowl donations for the past few years provided enough soup for clients for the remainder of the winter months. Manna for the Many has emphasized the need for soup donations again this year.

Manna for the Many, 144 E. Independence St., is observing its 14th year as a local food pantry. Food distribution to registered clients is held three days each week: 9 to 11 a.m., Tuesday; 1 to 3 p.m., Wednesday, and 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday. In order to receive food, clients must provide photo ID and proof of residency (current utility bill, for example) each time they come to the pantry. Manna also asks that clients bring their own bags.

The pantry is staffed entirely by volunteers, and the Manna board has stressed that without the time freely given by volunteers and the donations of cash and food from individuals, schools and other groups, the program would not be possible.