Empty Bowls benefit held to raise money for local food bank

Monday, November 10, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Bowls await new owners who came for a simple lunch Sunday at the Empty Bowls fundraiser at the Salvation Army. Volunteers made the bowls as a reminder of the need to stock local food pantries.

Just before Cheryl Kieffer and Dan Essner went shopping Sunday to stock Christ Episcopal Church's food pantry, they stopped for lunch at the Salvation Army. There, the first of two Empty Bowls benefits this week was underway.

They each ate a simple lentil soup with bread and a dessert of three cookies, all prepared by the Southeast Missouri State University Student Dietetic Association. The money raised will be donated to local food banks. Empty Bowls started in 1991 as a Michigan high school art teacher's way of raising money for a local food bank. After a meal of soup and bread — intended to remind donors that many people have little to eat — they can choose an empty ceramic bowl as a memento. The idea has since been used around the world, raising millions to combat world hunger.

According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, from 2006, 11 percent of households are unable to put food on the table throughout the year.

Kieffer and Essner left with two empty bowls, nesting one inside the other, each glazed in earthy tones like the dishes, Essner said, "that my ancestors ate out of."

Essner and Kieffer's bowls "are not quite matching, but compatible," he said. Kieffer cast her eye on several others, saying "I love them all," but kept the chosen one in her hand.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Aidan Stiegemeyer, 21 months, picks the fish bowl for his father, Eric Stiegemeyer of Jackson, at the Empty Bowls fundraiser Sunday at the Salvation Army.

Olivia Rhodes, 11, felt the same way, trying to decide which bowl to bring home. Her favorite seemed to be one glazed deep blue with gridlike decorative lines softened by the bowl's petal-shaped lip.

The bowls were made by volunteers who helped produce hundreds for the benefit. Some bore the artist's initials, but most were anonymous to prevent the artists from getting too attached to their work, as one volunteer explained.

Anne Marietta, who teaches dietetics at Southeast, has volunteered for the event since in started in Cape Girardeau, and has gotten her students involved. One, senior Jennifer Nagel, helped make and serve two types of lentil soup — vegetarian and beef — and decorated tables set out in the Salvation Army gymnasium.

Each table included an autumn-themed centerpiece and paper pumpkins stating facts about hunger in the United States. Because the soups were made with nutrition in mind, Nagel said. "you could feel like you're doing something good for your body while helping feed people."

Kenyatta Sessoms, 13, who visits the Salvation Army for Friday night activities and to practice drums, said he wasn't sure if he would even take a bowl. But the soup and bread were good, he said, and so were the cookies.

Christy Ha, 17, a senior at Notre Dame Regional High School, arrived at 9 a.m. As a third-year Empty Bowls volunteer, she said she got involved because her aunt, Marietta, is involved. Ha also called two schoolmates, juniors Keith LeGrand, 16 and Nick Koeppel, 17, to help out.

"I didn't know there were that many hungry people in Cape," Ha said.

Linda Bohnsack, of Garden Gallery at 835 Broadway, donated studio time and kilns to the project.

"For the last two years, I've been more personally involved," she said. "Especially this year, feeding the hungry is so important."

Bohnsack said she was impressed with this year's number of volunteers, including 87 art students from Southeast who helped produce the bowls. Potter Julie Bricknell said nearly 200 people, most from church groups, arrived at noon for Sunday's meal. A steady stream of diners followed the lunch rush.

On Wednesday, an Empty Bowls meal will be offered from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Dearmont teaching lab at Southeast Missouri State University. Tickets are available in advance at Southeast's bookstore. The evening will include a silent auction for a Redhawks bowl. Other ceramics are being sold separately and for a slightly higher price, with proceeds also benefiting Empty Bowls.



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