Empty Bowls to raise hunger awareness

Published 8:15 pm Saturday, November 26, 2016

Winchester residents and businesses are gearing up for the first Friday after the week of Thanksgiving to host a very different type of meal.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 2 in the basement of First Presbyterian Church, 130 Windridge Drive, volunteers will host the eighth annual Empty Bowls event in Winchester.

Empty Bowls is a hunger awareness campaign that began 25 years ago in North Carolina. Participants pay for a handmade bowl filled with a basic vegetarian soup recipe and a piece of homemade bread, and then dine together as a community while remembering those who struggle to find food.

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Ruthie Skinner, chairperson for this year’s event, said that when it first happened empty bowls was supposed to be a one-time event. 

“But it was such a perfect idea that it went viral,” Skinner said.

In central Kentucky, Empty Bowls got off the ground thanks to the contributions of Joe Molinaro, a professor emeritus of Ceramics at EKU.

Molinaro, along with some of his students, started an empty bowls event in Richmond with 200 bowls. That number quickly grew though to 1,400, and strained the limits of what the ceramics department could do.

This year, former students of Molinaro’s are making the bowls for Winchester’s event.

“Carvel and Ashley Norman, of Dirty South Pottery, have graciously picked up the ball and run with it,” Skinner said.

The Normans are joined by Molly Stotts of My Father’s Garden, who will be baking bread for the event. Also volunteering will be the JROTC class from George Rogers Clark High School. Cadets will manage parking during the meal, and exchange students from Mount Sterling will assist other volunteers in serving.

Visitors will purchase the handmade bowls for $15 for their meal and get a bowl of their choosing. Skinner said the bowl will be filled with soup and they will get a piece of bread to go with it, as well as some water. When they are finished eating, participants will have their bowls cleaned and given back to them to keep.

“Each time they see their bowl they are reminded that they took a small step to alleviate hunger,” she said.

While Skinner said the goal of the event is more about raising awareness than money, some money will be collected and donated to the local food pantry to help supply food through the winter months. 

“We donate about $5,000 each year, and that money helps to feed people in January and February, the pantry’s leanest months,” she said.

All funds from the event will go to Clark County Community Services

Additionally, any food left over from the meal will be given away. Skinner said that in the past the soup has been donated to the fire departments, but last year it was given to the Beacon of Hope shelter.

Skinner said she expects about 250 to 300 people to take part in the event.

“It was started by the Presbyterian church here, but we call it Winchester Empty Bowls because it really is a community-wide event,” she said.