Empty Bowls

“Empty Bowls is a grassroots effort to raise money and awareness in an effort to end hunger and food insecurity. Each group that participates in the Empty Bowls project works with their community to create their own event.”

If you’re a school that is interested in doing a fundraiser to benefit a local soup kitchen I highly recommend this event. The event is run many different ways but in a nut shell the people come and purchase a handmade ceramic bowl and get a bowl of soup. It is a great school wide activity because the art department can have their students make bowls in ceramic class, the graphic classes can make signs, business classes can advertise/market the event, and culinary classes can make and serve the soup & bread. Other students such as students part of community service clubs can set the event up and sell tickets, wrap bowls, clear tables, clean up, etc.

It is truly a school-wide event.

Culinary pointers from a first year novice:

  • The culinary classes made seven different types of soup: spicy black bean, potato leek, potato chowder, corn chowder, French onion, chicken noodle, and lentil soup. Make sure you make more of the “favorites” and less of the others. For instance we almost ran out of chicken noodle and potato chowder and were trying to give away lentil soup by the end of the night.
  • Empty Bowls Soups Recipe Packet
  • Make sure you defrost your soup many days in advance or use shallow storage containers. A 16qt storage container takes more than four days in the refrigerator to defrost completely. It is no fun trying to heat up frozen soup the night of the event. BUT…if it does happen simply place the frozen container of soup in a warm sink of water. If it is a soup that contains dairy use a cold sink of water to prevent food borne illness.
  • I would not suggest serving the soupĀ  in the ceramic bowls because then you have to wash or bag the bowls before customers take them home and that gets messy. The easiest way to serve the soup is in paper 16oz bowls with lids. Your students can write on the top of the lids the type of soup and they can simply be held in a warm oven or holding oven after they have been bowled.
  • Make sure you think about how much customers can carry. For instance without trays it is pretty hard to carry a bowl of soup, drink, utensils, napkin, butter, bread, and dessert. To solve this problem customers went through the soup line, picked up a drink, a spoon & knife that were wrapped in a napkin, and bread on a small plate. Desserts were outside the cafeteria’s line so that they could come back up and get some after they sat down. Butter pats, salt and pepper were placed on each table.
  • If your culinary classes are not well suited to make enough bread and soup ask local restaurants to donate bread, desserts, or soups. Have your classes do some of it but not all of it.

Miscellaneous Pointers:

  • Send out letters for donations from grocery stores, local restaurants, businesses at least three months in advance.
  • Ask a local garden store to borrow potted plants for centerpieces and return them after the event.
  • Contact your local newspaper to place a free advertisement for a not for profit event.
  • Make a facebook page so that your students can spread the word through the school.
  • Apply to local grants. Grant money can be used to purchase supplies like table cloths or clay & glaze.

Important Event Materials:

For more information: Empty Bowls

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