By Suzanne Raybuck

The second annual SOUPer Bowl at Allen D. Nease High School raised more than $32,000 for the First Coast Blessings in a Backpack organization to help hungry students in St. Johns County.

The SOUPer Bowl is an annual soup-tasting charity event where local restaurants provide an array of gourmet soups for attendees to sample. This year 20 restaurants brought their best soups to the event. Students from the St. Johns Technical Culinary Arts Academy and the Culinary and Garden Club of Palencia Elementary were proud to represent their schools at the event by cooking and serving their very own gourmet soups.

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In addition to a variety of soups, each event attendee also received a ceramic bowl that was designed and crafted by students at schools throughout St. Johns County including Bartram Trail High School, St. Johns Technical High School, Valley Ridge Academy, Palencia Elementary, Webster Elementary and Nease High School.

Dave Maynard, art teacher at Nease and one of the people behind the original idea for the SOUPer Bowl, coordinated the effort between all the schools and oversaw the creation of hundreds of bowls at Nease High School.

Maynard said, “The first year we did this there were only two schools involved with bowl-making, Valley Ridge and Nease. This year we have six schools participating and hopefully next year we’ll grow even more.”

With a volunteer force of more than 90, students assisted the chefs, helped during set-up and at the conclusion of the event, directed event attendees, decorated the cafeteria the day before and even helped with social media and press promotion in the months leading up to the SOUPer Bowl.

All the proceeds of the evening were donated to First Coast Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides food for more than 600 low-income children in St. Johns County through clubs and other student-run organizations at various St. Johns County Schools. The children who receive food are in a “food insecure environment” where there is not a stable source of food for the family. Blessings in a Backpack provides these students with bags of food every week so they don’t have to go hungry over the weekend.


Photo courtesy Suzanne Raybuck

Students from the Culinary and Garden Club of Palencia Elementary harvested organic vegetables they had grown at Palencia Elementary the morning of the SOUPer Bowl and then prepared Chicken Tortellini Soup.

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