Empty Bowls returns to campus to raise money and awareness for food insecurity

Empty Bowls returns to campus to raise money and awareness for food insecurity

By Jordan Scenna
Deputy Editor

Potential buyers examine the bowls made by students and faculty from the WCC ceramics department. RubyGo | Washtenaw Voice

Empty Bowls returned to campus for the first time since the Covid lockdown. The fundraiser, which sells ceramic bowls crafted by WCC students, brought in $1,480 with more bowls still to be sold. The money will be split between the Food Cupboard and the WCC Foundation’s student emergency fund.

Carol Tinkle, WCC project and data technician, runs the Food Cupboard. She credits the Empty Bowls fundraiser for keeping the shelves stocked for students at all times. “We’ve never had to turn a student away because we have no food in the cupboard due to fundraisers like Empty Bowls,” Tinkle said.

John Hartom created Empty Bowls in 1990 as an art teacher at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills. He challenged his students to make 100 ceramic bowls and then invited students and faculty to a soup luncheon where they would request donations for a food drive. The event was such a success that Hartom and his wife, Lisa Blackburn, presented the idea at conferences across the country. Today, Empty Bowls events are present in almost every state.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to WCC’s food cupboard and student emergency fund. RubyGo | Washtenaw Voice

WCC ceramics department head Irving Remsen brought Empty Bowls to campus in 2014. He knew Hartom and Blackburn from selling his Empty wares at various summer art fairs, and thought Bowls would be perfect for WCC. In conjunction with the now defunct culinary arts department, who filled the student-born ceramics with homemade soup, Empty Bowls began.

In a 2018 survey by the Council of Michigan Foundations42% of community college students reported food insecurity. According to a study by Johns Hopkins Universitystudents who face food insecurity have lower graduation rates and are less likely to get a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

WCC student food insecurity rates aren’t known at this time, but Tinkle said she sees a clear need for the Food Cupboard. “Many students are not able to be successful due to insufficient basic needs being met, such as being hungry. It’s hard to study when your stomach is growing.”

Approximately five students visit the food cupboard per week.

The WCC Foundation will share the proceeds generated from the fundraiser as well, which will go into the student emergency fund. These funds are allocated to students who need things like emergency car repairs or rent assistance.

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