By NewsLine Staff

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, will mark the return of the SOUPer Bowl at Nease High School for the fourth consecutive year. The event, which runs from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., will be graced by some of the finest chefs on the First Coast, who will join forces to offer their signature creations in an evening guaranteed to delight the taste buds.

Primarily a soup-tasting event, the SOUPer Bowl is planned, organized and hosted by the Nease students with two goals: to raise funds needed to run the Blessings in a Backpack program in St. Johns County schools and to create more widespread awareness about student hunger in our community.

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Blessings in a Backpack is a program for students on free and reduced-price lunches in school who are dependent on school meals for nutrition during the week. Many of these children do not have guaranteed meals waiting for them at home over the weekend. First Coast Blessings steps in to fill that gap by sending food home with these students who are at risk for hunger. Often, this is the only nourishment available to them during the 65 hours between lunch at school on Friday and the start of school on Monday.

The consequences of hunger in schools range from the inability to concentrate to poor academic performance. Extensive studies have shown that grades are better, and morale higher, when students do not have to worry about an empty belly.

“Hunger should not be a worry or challenge for today’s youth,” said Kimberly Ward, executive director of First Coast Blessings in a Backpack. “It is important that as a community we do everything we can to feed them. I have seen the direct and powerful impact that this program has on the students, as well as the families and school as a whole.”

The hope that no child in St. Johns County should go hungry has been the driving force behind the SOUPer Bowl event. Nease students have been packing food for school children at Webster Elementary for more than eight years in the only student-led and organized program in the area; however, four and a half years ago, it was discovered available funding would be insufficient to feed the rising numbers of students in need at Webster Elementary, which included more than 200 children on a waiting list.

As a result of the needs of these children, the SOUPer Bowl event was envisioned and implemented by a group of parents, students and administration at Nease to raise the necessary funds to cover the deficit. Today, more than one hundred Nease students combine talents from the Hospitality and Tourism, Digital Design, International Baccalaureate and Television Production academies to tackle hunger in the county schools. The response of participating restaurants has been overwhelming.

Returning this year will be Sawgrass Country Club, the People’s Choice Award winner at the 2018 SOUPer Bowl, as well as steadfast supporters like The Restaurant Medure, The Ice Plant, Trasca & Co., Palm Valley Fish Camp, Fifth Element, Sysco and Publix Cooking Schools. Also participating in the event for the first time will be South Kitchen & Spirits, MAA Kitchen, Treylor Park & Hitch and Fionn MacCools. Over the past three years, this undertaking has raised more than $90,000 for First Coast Blessings in a Backpack.

The goal for SOUPer Bowl IV is to raise $40,000, which will support 400 students for one school year. Seventeen schools in St. Johns County, depend on the program to support their students. The cost to cover a single student is $100 per year. Tickets for the event are $25 per person.

To purchase tickets, obtain information or sign up as a participating restaurant, visit


Photo courtesy Nease High School

SOUPer Bowl IV is primarily a soup tasting event.

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