Empty bowls

For more than a decade, people have been warming their bellies and hearts at the Empty Bowls soup luncheon, a fundraiser for area food pantries.

The fact that the event has been going on so long shows that the need is still great, say organizers.

“We are really almost completely supported by donations from the community,” said Bill Farnsworth, director of the Marietta Community Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church in Marietta, where the event will be held.

“Last year we served 8,000 people in Washington County,” he said. “We have been holding our own but at the end of last year we were hemorrhaging … these fundraisers are like a transfusion for us.”

Farnsworth said every year the number of households served by food pantries in the area goes up and it is a disturbing trend.

“A lot of the people we serve are working part-time and their hours are inconsistent. They are one surprise expense away from not being able to support themselves,” Farnsworth said, adding, “With summer coming, the kids are out of school and we see a lot of kids in need.”

The Marietta Community Food Pantry is the main recipient of this fundraiser, which typically brings in a couple thousand dollars, with other pantries in the area receiving prorated gifts. The Marietta pantry is a “grocery item” pantry, meaning that those served can find things one would generally find at a grocery store. A family of four can be supplied for 30 days with $60 worth of food, according to Farnsworth.

The Empty Bowls luncheon is sponsored by area potters, restaurants and First Congregational, First Unitarian Universalist and St. Luke’s Episcopal churches. It began as a project by Michigan school teacher John Harton in 1990. Harton’s students crafted ceramic bowls in their high school art classes and the finished products were used as individual serving pieces for a fundraising meal of soup and bread. The guests kept the empty bowls.

Locally, Harmar School fifth grade students had the opportunity to contribute to the event and put some thought into what kind of bowl they would like to create.

“I asked them to come up with designs for bowls that they might buy themselves,” said Julie Brewer, a first-year K-5 art teacher at both Harmar and Washington schools. “I am pretty pleased. They are colorful and creative.”

The process of making the roughly 44 bowls takes the students two class periods to sculpt and then glaze the baked pottery, but the entire pottery making process takes much longer with the baking and drying done outside of class time.

Brewer said the glaze applied to the pottery is lead free and food safe and ready to be used and enjoyed by the lucky buyer.

A dozen different kinds of soup will be provided from area participating restaurants, as well as bread, desserts and drinks. The price to buy a bowl as well as soup is $10. For soup only, the cost is $5. The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.