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VOL. 130 | NO. 217 | Friday, November 6, 2015

Empty Bowls Project Uses Art to Feed City


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Hunger and homelessness are problems plaguing the Mid-South, and the Memphis Empty Bowls Project hopes to play its small part in addressing the larger issue.

The Memphis Empty Bowls Project takes place Sunday evening. Local restaurants participating include Tsunami, Folk’s Folly, Half Shell and Owen Brennan’s.


On Sunday, Nov. 8, art in the form of handcrafted bowls and a sampling of soups from several Memphis restaurants will be the centerpiece of an effort to raise money to feed area children in need. The event is slated for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Church Health Center Wellness, 1115 Union Ave.

For $25, attendees can choose a handcrafted bowl to take home followed by a meal of soups and breads prepared by 15 Memphis restaurants, all while supporting the fight against hunger.

This year, instead of raising money to donate to local efforts, the organization will create a Food for Kids Backpack program at Perea Preschool operated through the Mid-South Food Bank.

“We’re excited about this year’s beneficiary because we’re creating something from scratch,” said Jamie Winton, director of the Memphis Empty Bowls Project. “Depending on how much money we raise, we’ll provide enough food for them to have nutritious food throughout the weekend through the year.

“So often, so many students get breakfast and lunch free at school but families are ill-prepared to provide for them on the weekends and their education suffers. There are a lot of consequences to them being hungry, especially at a young age.”

The Church Health Center started Perea Preschool as a ministry 15 years ago, and some 80 percent of its students live below the poverty level. The school has a heavy emphasis on parent accountability and involvement in education.

Memphis officials estimated last year that 46 percent of the demand for emergency food assistance went unmet, according to The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2014 Status Report.

The problem can seem overwhelming, but Winton is a big believer in the philosophy that every little bit counts.

“People are getting overwhelmed by the idea that there is a huge problem of hunger and we’re individuals who can’t do a lot, and that’s depressing,” she said. “I have children now, and it’s so important that my children understand that there is always a way you can better someone else’s life. If you can’t feed 100 people, you can feed one. The few individuals we’re able to help, we think it really makes a difference.”

The Empty Bowls Project is an international effort that began in 1990 to raise money for organizations that support the hungry and homeless. An art teacher in Michigan had the idea that his students could create something that would impact their small community. The bowls were sold and the money used to help feed those in need.

For $25, attendees can choose a handcrafted bowl to take home followed by a meal of soups and breads prepared by 15 Memphis restaurants, all while supporting the fight against hunger.


The program spread to other cities, with the only rule being that the art and money must be used to fight hunger locally.

The Memphis Empty Bowls Project started at St. John’s United Methodist Church in 2012. Following an event in spring 2014, this will be the third edition in Memphis.

The local version of Empty Bowls has raised tens of thousands of dollars through ticket sales and donations. That money has gone to equip soup kitchens and food pantries with necessary resources such as refrigerators, freezers, stoves, Christmas dinners and simple food items.

This year’s Memphis Empty Bowls Project will feature more than 400 handcrafted and hand-painted bowls donated by artisans, educators, students and others around the Memphis area. Attendees at Sunday’s event will approach two long tables filled with the bowls and choose one to keep. The empty bowl that goes home is a piece of art that is meant to serve as a reminder of the empty bowls that are rampant in the Memphis area.

Attendees who pay $50 for VIP tickets are allowed early entrance to have first choice at the bowls, followed by those who purchase the regular $25 ticket. Children can attend for $5.

Attendees are then welcome to move around the room to enjoy the food offered from restaurants including Huey’s, Tsunami, Half Shell, Folk’s Folly, Owen Brennan’s and Lafayette’s Music Room. Stone Soup and La Baguette will donate bread. There also is a silent auction, art sale and live music.

The silent auction allows local artists who don’t make bowls to still get involved. Winton, for example, is a painter and she created work for the auction.

The bowls themselves encompass a wide range of styles. Some were donated by ceramic artists and potters, while members of the Mid-South Woodturners Guild crafted ones of maple, cherry, ash and other woods. Other bowls were created by students, such as a group from Harding Academy.

“They incorporate the idea of creation as a passionate act into their curriculum,” Winton said of the art students. “They work on the project throughout the year. They write blogs about their work. They put a lot of thought into it.”

Tickets can be bought online at www.memphisemptybowls.com, in person at St. John’s United Methodist Church or at the event.

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