Empty Bowls Project raises money and awareness

Brandy Crase, volunteer with Kentucky Harvest Southeast, selects a bowl at Barbourville’s Oldway Cafe during the Empty Bowls Project to raise money and awareness for hunger.

Although raising awareness is arguably just as tough as raising money, the Empty Bowls Project, Kentucky Harvest Southeast aims to do both.

The Empty Bowls Project is an international grassroots movement to help end hunger by trading a nominal donation for an empty bowl that symbolizes all the empty bowls in the world. In Barbourville on April 9 and 10, the project came to life at Oldway Cafe, where community members accepted a complimentary bowl of soup after donating $20 for a hand-made, hand-painted pottery bowl. 

Teresa Pope, local potter from Indian Horse Pottery, made each bowl. The few that were not selected during the event will be available at the Union College Redbud Festival of Appalachian Culture on April 17 and 18. This event is held on Union’s campus. Following the festival, if bowls remain, Pope will offer them at the Knox County Farmers’ Market. 

After minimum donations are collected for all the empty bowls, the fundraising effort should yield close to $5,000, according to Jim Dorn of Kentucky Harvest Southeast.

The proceeds are used to support local food charities, such as Christian Life Food Pantry, which is the only USDA-approved food pantry in Barbourville, and the Backpack Program for Knox County schools—a program that assures students have enough to eat on weekends.

“At the present time, we are supporting around 208 elementary and kindergarten children in Knox County,” Dorn said. “It takes about $14,000 a year to support the Backpack Program at just one school.”

With the help of volunteers like Mike Long with Long’s Pic-Pac, that price tag does not include delivery. Long takes food to the school, and from there, parent volunteers and teachers pack bags for students, Dorn said. 

Sponsors and donors who partner with Kentucky Harvest Southeast are critical to the project’s success. “We had 45 sponsors and a long list of community members who took home empty bowls to remind them that hunger is a real threat in Knox County.”

Kentucky Harvest Southeast is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that facilitates food donations and distribution to those who need it. For more information, visit www.kyharvestsoutheast.org.

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