11-22 Empty Bowls project

[Image above] A ceramic artisan in Asheville, North Carolina, creates a bowl for a local Empty Bowls event. Credit: vacreek, YouTube

Even as many aspects of society return to “normal” relative to the pre-pandemic baseline, food insecurity remains at an elevated level due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food insecurity is the condition of not having access to sufficient food, or food of an adequate quality, to meet one’s basic needs.

Even though unemployment rates have declined and stabilized, rates of food insecurity remain high due to the end of pandemic-era boosts to government food aid and the high rate of inflation on numerous food categories. As a result, food charities are experiencing unprecedented and unsustainable demand for their services.

While donations of food to local food banks can help the centers meet the needs of the community, cash donations are a more effective and efficient way of supporting the centers’ missions.

Food banks generally have more purchasing power per dollar than an individual, allowing them to buy items in bulk for much less than what a consumer would pay at the grocery store. Plus, food banks will know which food items are most needed, making their purchases more targeted, and they can save time by not sorting through donations for unexpired, clean, and usable items.

For people who want to raise money for their local food bank, the Empty Bowls project provides a unique way to do so by engaging the local arts community.

The Empty Bowls project asks local artisans, typically ceramicists, to create and donate bowls that will be used as serving pieces for a fundraising meal. After the meal, contributing guests get to keep the empty bowls, and the raised money is donated to a local food bank, soup kitchen, or shelter.

Art teacher John Hartom and his wife, art educator Lisa Blackburn, started the Empty Bowls project in the early 1990s, when Hartom developed the idea as a way to involve his students in a local food drive. Following the success of that event, the couple created an information packet and started a nonprofit so they could help others host Empty Bowls events.

In the video below, Hartom talks about how the Empty Bowls project has grown over the years, using an Empty Bowls event in Asheville, North Carolina, as an example.

Credit: vacreek, YouTube

For those interested in organizing an Empty Bowls event in their local community, information can be found on the Empty Bowls project website, as well as a place to register the event. It is requested that organizers send in some images of bowls from the event so they can be included in an ongoing book project about the Empty Bowls project.