This past Saturday, Feb. 20th, was the Empty Bowls luncheon I wrote about a few weeks ago. The fundraiser was sponsored by our local arts’ alliance organization and benefited one of the local food pantries. Local restaurants and caterers provided several different soups and chili for the fundraiser. Rolls, beverages and honey buns were also available. Students from a local private school had decorated colorful placemats for the tables and music students from the arts’ alliance music programs provided musical entertainment for diners.
My family arrived about half way through the event and found our bowls among the many other wonderfully decorated bowls. The event hall was lively with people and music. A group of senior citizens from one of the local retirement communities had just arrived. We chose our soups–wonton, chicken noodle and chili–and sat down to eat, while enjoying the music of local budding musicians. While there we waved to and chatted with some friends and acquaintances and enjoyed the small town ambience.
As we were leaving I spotted the director of the organization in which the food pantry is housed. I went over to say hello and while we were talking I asked her about the success of the fundraiser. She said that the arts’ alliance ran out of the 140 bowls purchased for people to decorate. People who did not wish to decorate a bowl or were not able to because the bowls sold out, were still able to purchase tickets and come to the luncheon. While at the luncheon, I saw several people using disposable bowls, indicating more than 140 people participated in this fundraiser. I do not have a definite count of tickets sold or money raised, but the community services director seemed very please with the outcome, indicating it had grown substantially over last year.
Our bowls are currently on display on my dining room table. I leave them there while we eat dinner as a reminder to be grateful for what we have and to remember that those who are hungry exist in the United States in unacceptably high numbers.
Just recently I became aware of a really creative and innovative fundraising effort for food banks, pantries, soup kitchen and larger organizations that give aid to those suffering from hunger. The Empty Bowls Project is the major project of the non profit, Imagine Render, whose mission is to “create positive and lasting change through the arts, education, and projects that build community.” This program is an international effort to raise money and awareness in the fight against hunger. Each empty bowls fundraiser varies from community to community as organizations adapt this program to suit their group and community.
Here in my community a local food bank is partnering with the local Arts’ Alliance organization to sponsor this event. People wishing to participate can go to the Arts Alliance building during a series of Saturdays. After paying $20, they receive a blank ceramic bowl which they sign and decorate any way they choose. The Arts Alliance organization will fire all the decorated bowls. On the day of the event, participants will go to the local fire hall, find their bowl and use it to be served a simple meal of soup and bread. For those people who wish to participate in the fundraiser, but not decorate a bowl, some decorated bowls will be available the day of the event as long as supplies last. Once the soup has been consumed, the bowl is yours to take home to serve as a reminder that hunger exists in our world.
I love the creativity of this fundraiser, both in the uniqueness of the fundraising activity and in the fact that participants get to be creative and create something to take away. I also like the idea of coming together as a community and eating a meal together. I live in a small town, so chances are I will know several people as I sit down to eat my soup and bread. Finally I like that the meal is simple, because for people experiencing hunger, simple is how they eat, when they eat. I am often torn by the large gala fundraisers, often featuring celebrity chefs, that are thrown to raise money for organizations fighting hunger. I guess that may be what is needed to get some to give money to fight hunger. I just like that this event not only raises money for those who are hungry, but it helps to raise awareness of what someone who is experiencing hunger might eat.
This past Saturday my family went to decorate our bowls, some more enthusiastically than others. (It’s hard to get enthusiasm out of teenagers sometimes!) We got our bowls, chose our color palette and got to work. We all had different styles and ideas. I had been stressing over what to paint, as I am not artistic at all. In the end, I decided it was best to keep it simple and went with stripes and polka dots. When these bowls are fired the colors will darken a bit. Since finishing our bowls we have all mentioned how excited we are to see our finished products. Check back after February 20th and I will have pictures of the fired bowls! There are two more Saturdays left to decorate bowls, so if you live in my community and are looking for a fun, creative, socially aware event to do with your family or just on your own, head on down to the Arts’ Alliance building and get a bowl of your own!