While many stuffed their faces during the Super Bowl on Sunday, some locals kept in mind whose bowls remained empty.

In hopes of assuaging the nation’s hunger problem, youth groups at approximately 15,000 congregations across the country collected donations Sunday in the Souper Bowl of Caring. The 11 -year-old program – started in Columbia, South Carolina – encourages people to donate a dollar as they leave worship services on Super Bowl Sunday in order to raise money for the hunger-fighting cause of each congregation’s choice. Locally, the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara participated for the third year in a row, passing on its donations to the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County.

Last year, the drive raised over $3.1 million. The Rev. Brad Smith, executive director of the nationwide effort, attributed the success of the Souper Bowl of Caring to its simplicity and moving cause.

“This event is an actual fruit of prayer. It all began as a result of a sermon that asked the congregation, on the day of the Super Bowl, to keep those in mind who have no bowl of soup to eat,” he said. “From that point, a youth group decided to put those inspiring words into action and started collecting money from the congregation.”

Smith said that after the first year in 1991, 22 churches in Columbia were involved, and two years later the program had grown to a national effort.

“It’s real simple – that’s the beauty of it. It’s not a special offering; it’s only a buck. All [the churches] have to do is make an announcement, collect the money and then donate it to a local hunger-fighting organization,” he said.

Donald Dexter, St. Andrew’s associate pastor, said the church sees the program as a local way to contribute to a much larger cause.

“We anticipate to receive between $300 and $400. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when churches all over the nation bring in these kind of donations, it all adds up to the $3.1 million they received last year,” Dexter said.

Smith said individual community effort, and the fact that donations stay within the local community, is what makes the program a success.

“Most important is to get the community. We get a national impact only with a community effort. Also, through this program, the money stays in the community, so it’s really a nationwide local program,” he said.

Kate McCarthy, agency relations representative for the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, said monetary contributions from the community play a key role in the success of the Food Bank.

“We usually use money donations to buy commodities that aren’t donated,” she said. “We have a warehouse we need to keep stocked to supply and serve 144 agencies like soup kitchens and shelters. We call the warehouse the Costco of the non-profits, and we need to keep our shelves stocked.”

Dexter said he hopes people will keep in mind the less fortunate during future Super Bowl weekends.

“The Super Bowl is a day we tend to pig-out. It is a nice time to express gratitude for that, and to give to those who may not be so fortunate,” he said.