The Vince Lombardi Trophy is seen at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Feb. 9. In conjunction with the Super Bowl, United Methodist churches in Cincinnati and Los Angeles are teaming up to fight hunger. (AP Photo)

Inspired by the matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the L.A. Rams, United Methodists in Cincinnati and Los Angeles are teaming up for a “good competition” to address hunger in both cities.

Both cities’ United Methodist district offices are challenging their congregations and parishioners to make a proportional donation, based on their Super Bowl spending, to the hunger relief organization of their choice. Donations are being tallied and a “winner” between the two cities will be announced.

Bengals star Joe Burrow has used his platform to raise awareness of hunger in Ohio. Those discussions inspired local United Methodist leaders to think about inequality.

Single tickets for the Super Bowl are listed online starting around $6,000, not including travel and accommodations. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans bet over $4 billion a year on the Super Bowl alone.

“In light of the huge spending around the Super Bowl, we are mindful of how many people in Los Angeles and Cincinnati worry about whether they can afford their next meal,” says David Meredith, pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church and Urban Ministries director for the United Methodist regional office, the Ohio River Valley District of the UMC.

Meredith reached out to Mark Nakagawa, superintendent of the California-Pacific West District, and received an enthusiastic response: the West Coast United Methodists are “all in, 100% for the good!”

Donations are being listed in a Google form, which will be tallied by United Methodists from both cities after the game. After the Ohio River Valley District Facebook posted the story – paired with a picture of Methodist founder John Wesley wearing a Bengals jersey – nearly 100 churchgoers in greater Cincinnati have shared the post and planned to participate.

Westwood United Methodist Church in Cincinnati has connected with Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, to exchange hunger relief strategies, and perhaps a bit of NFL trash talk.

Actions that are emerging include: asking Super Bowl party guests to bring items for a food drive, asking the organizers of a betting pool to set aside a donation, or taking a collection at a watch party.

“The real Super Bowl competition is to outdo one another in doing all the good we can for those who struggle to put adequate, healthy food on their table,” says Meredith.

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