The Kansas City Chiefs may have won the Super Bowl last weekend.

But the Dormont Free Pantry and the residents it serves won the “Soup-er Bowl.”

The punny name was given to a competitive food drive organized by students at Keystone Oaks High School in Mt. Lebanon seeking to help their community. The effort, arranged as a bracket-style tournament between classes, resulted in one of the largest if not the largest donation in the pantry’s history.

“Originally, I thought this would raise maybe 200 items donated,” said Gabe Spinello, a Keystone Oaks junior who helped organize the drive. “There’s almost 5,000 here, and that’s beautiful.”

Gabe, a 16-year-old from Castle Shannon, had volunteered at the pantry with his mother and saw the good work being done there. He also recognized that the pantry could be depleted after the Super Bowl as more people took food for parties, and he wanted to do something to help keep it stocked.

Keystone Oaks High School students Nat Brooke, left, Enzo Bain, right, and other members of the Allies Club box up canned goods Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Keystone Oaks High School in Mt. Lebanon. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Gabe brought the idea of a food drive to Keystone Oaks’ Allies Club, where his classmates and English teacher Rebekah Brooks, the club sponsor, helped formulate the plan. Because the drive was going to take place Super Bowl week, they decided to make it into a competition.

All students in the high school have a seventh period class, so the club decided to hold it during that time slot to allow everyone to participate. Classes faced off head-to-head in a bracket, and every other day the classes that brought in the most goods would win and move to the next round.

“The classes and the kids went at it,” Brooks said. “They were all competing for a pizza party.”

The marching band class, headed by band director William Eibeck, won the Soup-er Bowl, bringing in about 1,500 items in just the final round.

Brooks’ own seventh period class fell in one of the middle rounds, despite a valiant effort with only eight students. The boxes of nonperishable foods and other items taking over a significant portion of her classroom showed that the real winner was the Dormont Free Pantry.

“To have that level of commitment and participation across the school, and to be able to bring in that sort of numbers of items, we were definitely shocked and really happy that they were willing to do all that work for us and for their neighbors,” said Jen Mazzocco, who co-chairs the committee that runs the free pantry under the Dormont Community Development Corp.

Keystone Oaks High School student Max Goulding, right, helps pack canned goods during the school’s competitive food drive. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

The Dormont Free Pantry began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when one of Mazzocco’s neighbors started collecting items on her porch. It eventually moved into the Dormont Borough Building.

The pantry partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in October, and it has since served 180 households, mainly from Dormont and other South Hills communities.

“We’ve just had an incredible demand,” Mazzocco said. “We go through the food that we order through the food bank pretty quickly.”

That means donations, such as the one from the Keystone Oaks food drive, are much appreciated. But the Keystone Oaks donation did cause one problem: The pantry didn’t have enough space to house all of the food and supplies students had collected.

Mazzocco said work is underway to get the pantry a larger space than the six cabinets it occupies in the basement of in the borough building.

“Right now, we’re storing the extra stuff in a storage area in the borough building,” she said, “but it’s a good problem to have.”

The free pantry may need to expand even further if Gabe gets his way.

“I think we should honestly upscale it next year, maybe do more than one drive over the course of the school year,” he said. “I have a lot of ideas, and hopefully it works well.”

The Dormont Free Pantry is located at the Dormont Borough Building, 1444 Hillsdale Ave., Pittsburgh, 15216. It’s open the first and third Wednesday of each month from 6-7 p.m. and the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 2 to 3 p.m.

Keystone Oaks High School teacher Rebekah Brooks, second row, third from left, and students in the Allies Club conducted the competitive food drive at the school. The donated items went to the Dormont Food Pantry. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Andrew Goldstein

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at