Oxford Empty Bowls organization celebrates 20 years with event this weekend

Oxford Empty Bowls celebrates its 20th anniversary of annual fundraising toward local food banks this weekend.

Empty Bowls is an international hunger relief effort founded in 1990 by a Michigan art teacher named John Hartom, who was looking for a way to engage his students into participating in a local food drive. After having his students craft ceramic bowls, he invited faculty to a soup lunch and requested donations to local food banks.

After consuming the soup, participants were led to reflect on how they weren’t hungry, while many in the community still were and had empty bowls. Participants were then asked to keep the bowls as a reminder for the less fortunate.

As of 2022, Empty Bowls organizations are found all across the United States, as well as in 20 different countries. According to the Empty Bowls website, tens of millions of dollars have been raised through events across the country.

Since being founded in 2002, Oxford’s branch of Empty Bowls has raised $126,414 for the Talawanda Oxford Pantry & Social Services (TOPSS), as well as the BackPack Program, Miami Cares Food Pantry, Open Hands Food Pantry, and the Talawanda School District Free Pantry.

This year also marks the first since 2019 that Oxford Empty Bowls was able to hold an in-person luncheon fundraiser, as the past two years have been virtual fundraisers constricted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bowls donated for use at the event are provided by Talawanda High School ceramic students, Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement students, contributing local potters, and bowls donated by “You’re Fired” a local pottery studio.

In September, Miami University’s annual Bowl-a-Thon event also helped to contribute bowls for the event.

In recognition of their work, Oxford Mayor William Snavely proclaimed Nov. 12, 2022, to be “Oxford Empty Bowls Day” during Oxford City Council’s meeting on Nov. 1.

“Whereas too many of our Oxford-area friends and neighbors are in need, with one-third of the children in the Talawanda School District receiving free or reduced-price meals, and TOPSS serving 439 households or 1240 individuals in 2020.” Mayor Snavely said. “... All luncheon guests will keep their bowls as reminders that there are always empty bowls in the world.”

Connie Malone, a co-organizer of the event, took the time to invite locals back to another year of the fundraiser.

“I’ve seen many of you there across many, many years, your cupboards are overflowing with bowls, I know,” Malone said. “You can always use a few more.”

The Oxford event is at the oxford Community Arts Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

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