Students give back at Ridgeway

Raising awareness about hunger locally and around the world was the focus of a project at a local elementary school.

About 600 students in grades two through six recently participated in the annual Empty Bowls event at Ridgeway Elementary School.

This is the event’s third year at the school to raise awareness about hunger, according to Terri Haynes-Toney, who teaches elementary art at the school.

Haynes-Toney said her students encouraged her to organize the project after she shared information about a Michigan art teacher who wanted to help his students come up with a creative way to raise funds to support a food drive in 1990. Since then, other schools have used the idea for their own hunger awareness projects and it has evolved into an international event.

“I always wanted to do Empty Bowls but I didn’t know how to get it started,” she said. “When I told students about Empty Bowls, one student piped up and asked, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’”

The fundraising project is simply to serve a dinner of soup and bread and invite those who partake to keep the bowl as a remembrance of the experience.

After Ridgeway conducted its first event, all of Hamilton’s elementary schools participated last year Haynes-Toney said. This year, each building had a chance to bring it to their neighborhoods she said.

“I like this fundraiser,” she said. “It allows me to apply for grant money (from local organizations) for the materials to make the bowls. It also allows all students to participate without taking something from home and helps to build their self-worth.”

The third- and fourth-grade students at the school as well as staff and area artists/potters make ceramic bowls as part of the fundraiser for two local food banks, while the fifth- and sixth-grade students sing in a chorus at the event.

The local community, businesses, organizations and the school’s PTO make financial donations as well as donate food. Parents and school staff make nearly two dozen crockpots of homemade soup to sell in a container that goes inside the ceramic bowl.

The event raised $2,000 in its first year and between $2,500 and $2,600 in its second year. So far, $1,200 has been raised and the bowls are being sold at lunchtime at the school.

Haynes-Toney said all of the funds stay in Hamilton and Butler County and are split between the Open Door Pantry and Shared Harvest.

“A lot of my friends came today,” said fifth grader Kaylee Witt. “I think it’s really cool because they (some area residents) don’t have stuff (like food). We do, but it’s not fair. I like it because people are getting food and it makes things more equal.”

Jessica Vanderpool, another fifth-grade student, said she loves the event because it’s giving back.

“It’s just so much fun because they feed the people who come to buy a beautiful bowl,” she said. “It means a lot to me because people are coming here to eat and (are helping to) feed other people in the community.”

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