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Volunteers from the Associates of Hearing Healthcare help with sorting food items for the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 16. More than 140 volunteers from various community organizations participated in the annual service day at FBSJ.

Burlington County Times, Jan. 25, 2017 – Staff Writer, Kristen Coppock – You can’t have a Super Bowl party without food.

Whether the host serves chicken wings, nachos and potato skins or veggie dip, hummus and cheese, snacks are ingrained into the American football watching experience.

That’s why the Food Bank of South Jersey is utilizing the popular game to encourage potential party hosts to raise funds and collect donations of food items.

Dubbed the “Souper Bowl,” FBSJ is encouraging local hosts to share photos and videos of their parties on the agency’s social media sites, while tagging @foodbanksj and utilizing #tacklehunger. One random post will earn its party host a $50 gift card from FBSJ.

Val Traore, president and CEO of FBSJ, expressed appreciation for those who contribute to the agency’s mission of assisting families in need.

“Without the support of our community who so generously donate their time, resources and portions of their hard-earned paychecks, we would not be able to provide for the thousands of hungry people fighting for a better life in South Jersey,” she said. “These simple acts of kindness are what fuel the stability and growth of our organization.”

The FBSJ assists 200,000 residents in South Jersey who are living in households determined to be “food insecure” and who rely on the agency for help with securing sustenance for themselves and their families. Other resources provided by the food bank include cooking courses, nutrition education and help with finding ways to improve their lives overall. Residents assisted by the agency include about 57,000 children and 20,000 seniors.

The food bank stocks its pantry with many donations from the community, as well as contributions from various food industry organizations. According to the agency, in 2016, it collected and distributed more than 11 million pounds of food to residents in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties.

According to the food bank, its most needed items include peanut butter, nuts, fruit cups, applesauce, dried fruit, beans, pasta, granola bars, cereals and rice. Canned items also are requested, including fruits, vegetables, pastas, chicken, ham, tuna and salmon.

The agency’s Souper Bowl initiative has it partnering with the Born This Way Foundation, a national charity started by singer Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta as a way to encourage random acts of kindness. As a partner, the FBSJ is encouraging Souper Bowl hosts to tag social media posts with #KickOffForKindness, the hashtag being utilized for Super Bowl watch parties across the country.

Hosts that register their Souper Bowl party with Born This Way through Feb. 7 also are eligible for a chance to receive tickets to an upcoming Lady Gaga show. The singer also is providing this year’s halftime entertainment, during the game that has become an unofficial national event.

Maya Enista Smith, executive director of the foundation, said Lady Gaga’s organization was built on the belief that kindness has the power to change the world.

“We started #KickOffForKindness because we want to make the biggest game day of the year one of the kindest days of the year. Hosting a Souper Bowl celebration to benefit the Food Bank of South Jersey is one wonderful way to do that.”

Traore indicated that partnering with Born This Way, which works to empower youth to make braver choices in their daily lives, would assist the FBSJ in its mission. “By inspiring our youth to make a positive commitment to their neighbors in need, it inspires a collective effort to lend a helping hand that organizations like our own rely on so greatly,” she said.

On its website, the foundation makes some suggestions for “Kindness Plays” during a party. In addition to collecting food for local pantries, ideas include decorating meal bags for children “who need a little extra love,” sending messages of support to military veterans and service members, and donating money to a nonprofit organization of your choice, such as Covenant House, which provides shelter and services for homeless youth.

Party hosts can also adopt a competitive spirit for their parties by challenging a friend or family member that is also organization a viewing event. The host with the most Kindness Plays or food donations would win.

Nonperishable food donations can be brought to the food bank’s Pennsauken warehouse, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Foods will be sorted and distributed to various pantries in the region.

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