Soldier Field seats 61,500. In a new effort this fall to combat hunger in the Chicago area, students and staff in the archdiocese’s Catholic elementary and high schools are being asked, through the Soup-er Stadium Challenge, to donate enough food to fill each seat twice.
The Soup-er Stadium Challenge — an effort organized by the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities, Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation and Soldier Field — runs Sept. 12-Oct. 6 in conjunction with national Hunger Awareness Month.
“If every student, teacher and staff member in the archdiocese dedicates even just one can of food or one non-perishable food item to this effort we will have more than enough to fill every seat of Soldier Field twice over,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools.
Catholic Charities estimates that if the goal is met Catholic school students will provide 103,335 meals to people in need.
Nearly 800,000 people in Cook and Lake counties — the geographical boundaries of the Archdiocese of Chicago — are experiencing food insecurity. That number includes approximately 227,000 children, according to statistics from Catholic Charities.
“Some of those families are in our schools. Many of those families are in our parishes and all of those families are in our communities and neighborhoods,” Rigg said. “We feel that it is our mission to reach out and to help them.”
Over a year ago, the Office for Catholic Schools reached out to Catholic Charities to come up with a way that students could address hunger.
“Not only do we want to help our students help those in need but we also want to educate them about why social justice is important,” said Rigg.
Tying the program into former Bears’ star Charles Tillman’s Crossroads Foundation, Soldier Field and the fall football season is exciting for the students, Rigg said.
During the campaign the Catholic Schools website (schools.archchicago.org) will show the seats of Soldier Field virtually filling up with food donations as they come in. Organizers also created seven lessons teachers can use with students that address different issues around hunger and how the Catholic mission compels them to help people in need.
Participating schools will be entered into drawings for various prizes including autographed items from Charles Tillman.
Families and parishioners can also support the drive by dropping off food at schools or Catholic Charities emergency food banks.
“About every 30 seconds we need our shelves restocked,” said Kate LeFevour from Catholic Charities Community Development and Outreach Services.
When people come to Catholic Charities for help the first thing they usually need is food. Hunger is pervasive and something that is often unseen.
Children and adults often won’t say when they don’t have enough food because of shame and embarrassment. Kids are less likely to do well in school if they are hungry because they can’t concentrate, they are more likely to have health and behavioral issues.
“At the most basic level food insecurity means you don’t know don’t know where or when your next meal will be,” said LeFevour. “Hunger has no one face. It has no certain look and that’s why it’s an issue that’s overlooked. People don’t realize how big the issue is.”
For more information about the program, visit schools.archchicago.org/souper-stadium-challenge.
When their summer service trip to the U.S. and Mexico border was canceled because of the pandemic, Loyola Academy juniors Nicole Cleland and Betsy Regan still wanted to reach out to help others. So when the idea to organize a local food drive came up among the group of students who had planned to go on the trip, the two teens ran with it.
On May 9, the day before Mother’s Day, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, 9050 S. Burley Ave., gave away 600 hot meals to their families and neighbors to relieve parents from the burden of cooking on the holiday.
For the past 13 years, Anthony Brown has delivered lunch bags of food six days a week, driving the Port Ministries Bread Truck to people who gather at eight stops in Back of the Yards, Englewood, New City, Gage Park and Canaryville.