The NFL may have its big game each year, but for the hungry in the Fox Valley, their main event is the Souper Bowl of Caring.
The event on March 1 is when Fox Valley United Way, area Jewel-Osco stores, Prisco's Fine Foods in Aurora and the Montgomery Market Place in Montgomery join forces with shoppers and dozens of youth volunteers to replenish supplies at two local food pantries -- the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry and the Kendall County Food Pantry in Yorkville.
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This year's event originally was scheduled for Feb. 1 but was rescheduled because of bad weather.
"The Souper Bowl is such a shining example of how a caring community can provide for its own," Fox Valley United Way CEO Mike Meyer said.
"The local economy continues to be rough for many of our residents. The number of people seeking food assistance is still rising in our area, and at least half of those now being helped are children," he said.
"Donations to the food pantries decline after the holidays, and that limits their ability to serve hungry families."
Fox Valley United Way and its supermarket partners are asking shoppers to "purchase a few extra" nonperishable items and hand them to United Way volunteers when they shop on March 1.
"We're excited to participate in this year's Souper Bowl of Caring, which gives us an opportunity to lend a helping hand to communities we serve," said Jim Rice, Jewel-Osco interim president. "We look forward to this year's program, and we urge our customers to join us as we work to provide hunger relief through this worthy cause."
Fox Valley United Way volunteers will be at each participating food store from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to accept donations. Pastas, breakfast bars, peanut butter and jelly, canned or packaged soups, crackers and rice are among the nonperishable items the food pantries need.
A list of suggested items is online at uwfoxvalley.org.
Cash donations also will be accepted at the stores or at the Fox Valley United Way website. Meyer said the food pantries can purchase $8 worth of food with every $1 donated.
Participating supermarkets include Jewel-Osco stores on Eola Road and West Galena Boulevard in Aurora; Veterans Parkway in Yorkville; Route 30 in Oswego; and North Route 47 in Sugar Grove.
Montgomery Market Place is on Douglas Road in Montgomery. Prisco's is on Prairie Street in Aurora.
Fox Valley United Way provides support for more than 50 social service agencies serving Aurora, Big Rock, Bristol, Hinckley, Little Rock, Millbrook, Montgomery, Mooseheart, North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, Plattville, Sandwich, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.