24th Annual Souper Bowl Fundraiser
Thursday, Feb. 25 from 2-8 p.m.
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) chose to reference the Super Bowl for their biggest annual fundraiser in an effort to set the record straight.
“We wanted to debunk the myth that domestic abuse gets worse during the Super Bowl,” said Alta Medea-Peters, director of community engagement for DVIP.
That myth, based on a number of misleading ’90s-era reports and rumors, has been discredited, but the legend — and very real presence of domestic abuse in eastern Iowa — inspired DVIP’s Souper Bowl, which takes place each year in February.
The Souper Bowl was first held 24 years ago with a simple premise: Local restaurants donated soup; local shops, artisans and individuals donated bowls; and members of the community bought tickets, gathered with the like-minded and ate as much soup as their hearts desired — all in service to helping those affected by domestic violence. Over the years, the event has kept the same essential format and grown exponentially.
“Last year we had 500 people,” Medea-Peters said. “It’s really taken on the feel of a family reunion. The City High track team washes the dishes. Our ticket takers last year were two high school students who first came 10 years ago with their mom. People get really excited about picking out their bowl; we’ll have people in line before the event begins and the line will go around the block. There are people who have their bowls included in their wills.”
Over the years the fundraiser has grown to a staff of 150 volunteers, featured over 70 food donors, hosted live music and speeches and attracted local and national politicians, including Sen. Bernie Sanders. It has also created a vibrant and close-knit community and raised awareness of the ever-present problems of domestic and intimate partner violence.
The DVIP first came into existence in 1977, powered by grant funding. Since that time, the program has expanded to serve eight Iowa counties, offering a range of services and resources for victims of domestic violence, stalking, dating violence and human trafficking. DVIP operates a 40-bed emergency shelter and liaises with hotels and apartment complexes to offer housing in communities that lack a shelter. Advocates can help clients make plans to leave their abuser and assist with filing protective orders. They even have facilities to house clients’ pets. All the services DVIP offers are confidential and free of charge and can be accessed by calling their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-373-1043.
While meeting the needs of domestic abuse survivors, which often push the boundaries of available resources, is always challenging, the pandemic has made these challenges even greater.
“With more people isolated at home with their abusers, situations can really escalate. When Iowa started to open back up in May, we saw a 28 percent increase in calls to the hotline,” Medea-Peters said. “We’ve had a 76 percent increase in requests for emergency housing assistance funding because people can’t stay with family or friends. Our housing advocates are sometimes taking 18 to 25 referrals a day.”
At the same time, DVIP has had to modify its practices to make them more COVID safe, replacing many in-person visits with phone and video options and cutting capacity at their shelter in half to 20 beds to allow for social distancing. An overflow shelter opening this month will make up for some of that lost capacity.
The pandemic has also affected their signature event.
“We realized around late June or July that it wouldn’t be safe to get 500 people together for our family meal, and we started planning a virtual event,” Medea-Peters said.
The 24th Annual Souper Bowl will feature many of the same elements that have defined it from its inception: soup from local restaurants and a community coming together to support an important mission. But there are some major changes.
This year there are 10 different soups on offer, chosen from favorites at previous years’ events. In lieu of lining up to pick out a bowl, all participants will receive a commemorative 24th Annual Souper Bowl soup mug. Tickets are available at four levels: the Souporter at $25 comes with a commemorative mug and two 8 oz. containers of soup. The Student and Sliding Scale Souporter at $15 comes with a commemorative mug and one 8 oz. container of soup. The Souporter Family Package is $75 and comes with two mugs and five 8 oz. containers of soup, and the Gift of Giving is $25 and can either be a gift of soup to someone else or a direct donation to DVIP. All packages include the option to choose your soup at checkout or let a DVIP advocate choose their favorite for you.
Orders can be delivered or picked up within a 15-mile radius of DVIP’s location at 1105 S Gilbert Ct in Iowa City.
Another significant change this year is a cut-off date for ticket sales. In the past, you could walk in on the day of the event and purchase your ticket, but this year, ticket sales will end on Feb. 15 so that organizers will know how much soup is needed and so volunteers can plan delivery routes. Though many virtual events over the last year have included a Zoom meet-up or something similar, the Souper Bowl has decided to forego that element, citing the video conferencing fatigue that many are feeling in a year full of Zooms, and the desire to allow participants to create community in their own way and on their own schedule. DVIP made 300 tickets available this year and had already sold half of them by mid-January.
Super Bowl season may not be connected to higher rates of domestic violence, but the COVID-19 pandemic certainly is. So while DVIP’s Souper Bowl is different in 2021, it could be the most important year yet to rally the community around survivors — and soup.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, contact DVIP’s crisis hotline at 1-800-373-1043 or visit dvipiowa.org.
2021 Souper Bowl Menu
Red lentil-tomato-coconut soup
Trumpet Blossom Cafe
Tuscan tomato soup
Bread Garden Market
Corn and bacon chowder
Red’s Ale House
Chicken noodle soup
2 Dogs Pub
Southwest tortilla chicken soup
Rapid Creek Cidery
Butternut squash bisque
Broccoli cheese soup
Nodo North Dodge
Green chili w/smoked pulled pork
Cheesy chicken tortilla soup
Black bean chili
Tiffani Green is a lifelong Iowan currently living in Coralville. She loves cooking (and eating!), showering her houseplants with benign neglect and forcing her cats to snuggle with her whether they want to or not. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 290.