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Hillsborough Fifth-Graders Face Off in III Annual Souper-Bowl, Collect 2,214 Cans of Soup for Food Pantry

Fifth-grade students at Auten Road School in Hillsborough concluded their Souper-Bowl contest Friday, collecting 2,214 cans of soup that were donated to the township's food pantry. Credits: Kia Bergman

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Far removed from the hoopla leading up to Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl LI game at NRG Stadium in Houston between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, fifth-grade students from four homerooms at the Auten Road School have been competing in the III annual “Souper-Bowl.”

The students, with the help of their families, have been collecting cans of soup for the township Food Pantry since Jan. 23.

The contest concluded Friday.

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This year’s total – 2,214 cans – exceeded last year’s total of 2,155 cans collected.

Four teams of fifth graders were divided into two teams, led by 5J homeroom teachers Diane Lyons and Carrie Sanchez (Atlanta Falcons) and 5K homeroom teachers Beth Raff and Mindi Andreski (New England Patriots).

The winners of the competition were the Team 5J Falcons who collected 1,284 total cans, but Lyons emphasized there were no losers, because everyone who competed contributed to the overall

“The kids are so proud, our goal always is to top the previous year,” Lyons said.

It was a come-from-behind victory, according to Lyons.

“We more than doubled our numbers from yesterday (Thursday),” she said. “We had 10 different families come in today (Friday) and drop off massive amounts of cans. They must have spent the night in supermarkets clearing shelves.

“What’s great about it is that you’re able to put that element of competition out there, but the focus the whole time is helping the community,” Lyons added.

“Truly all the students were winners by embracing the life lesson of giving back to their community,” said Kia Bergman, Community Outreach Coordinator for Hillsborough Schools.

One student spent his own money to purchase cans; another went to Weis and ShopRite supermarkets in town and asked for gift certificates, which they used to purchase soup. The mother of one student matched what her son spent to purchase soup cans and one student, who Sanchez characterized as “very shy,” went door-to-door in her neighborhood collecting donations.

“Her parents were so proud of her, to be able to do that, it was a good experience for her,” Sanchez said. “They sent us a touching e-mail about the outcome.”

Parents dropped off the donated soup at the food pantry Friday; some were surprised to learn that there are 130 families registered with the food pantry.

“The children don’t think about that, but there are families in this community in need,” Lyons said.

Lyons introduced the competition to Auten School, borrowing the idea from her son’s school in South Brunswick, which has hosted a “Souper-Bowl” for seven years.

Lyons and her colleagues are also proud to note that the students were motivated by giving, caring and sharing.

There were no trophies.

There was, however, an impromptu dance party in class which lasted for 20 minutes at the end of the day.

“They didn’t know they were going to get that, it was a last-minute surprise,” Lyons said. “They were so happy; you would have thought we were giving them each $100.”

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