A Decade of Dining and Donations

Article Published: Mar. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
A Decade of Dining and Donations

Rosi Goetz utilizes a unique combination of pottery wheel skills and freehand technique to fashion a ceramic casserole dish in the Crafts 2 class at Watauga High School.

Photo by Jeff Eason


The four years of high school fly by so fast and are filled with so many activities that it is understandable if most kids don't take the time to contribute to a public service project.

Art students at Watauga High School, however, have made one public service project a tradition over the past decade.

The annual Empty Bowls Dinner is a month-long project for WHS art students that finds them creating art, ceramic bowls and other items that will be used to help raise money for Watauga County's Hunger and Health Coalition.

The project culminates with the Empty Bowls Supper. During the supper, members of the community come out for a simple meal of soup and bread. Money raised from the event is then donated to the Hunger and Health Coalition for its ongoing projects. Last year's Empty Bowls Supper - the last one to be held at the old Watauga High School - raised $6,100 for the Hunger and Health Coalition.

This year's Empty Bowls Supper will be held at the new Watauga High School in Boone on Saturday, April 2, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner is $15 per person, and each guest will get to keep the ceramic bowl as a reminder about world hunger.

In addition to the charity dinner, the Empty Bowls Supper will include a silent auction, live music, original artwork from the WHS 2011 Senior Show and special surprises.

This year's project includes items from WHS art students of instructors Shelton Wilder, Lori Hill, Susan Dunn and Whit Whitaker. Also featured in the event are bowls and art from Watauga elementary school art students of instructors Dacia Trethewey and Jill Huffman, as well as Ashe County High School art students of instructor Pat Morrison.

Hunger & Health Coalition

"Empty Bowls has become such a huge benefit for the Hunger and Health Coalition," said Compton Fortuna, executive director of the organization. "The funding from the event helps to purchase food for local families, and it has been one of the most successful benefits that the Hunger and Health Coalition has been able to work with.

"We are excited to see how it will play out in the new Watauga High School, and we are really proud that it is now in its 10th year."

The Hunger and Health Coalition offers a variety of food assistance programs to those in need to help them survive in hard times. Those programs include:

The Food Pantry Program, which provides fresh and non-perishable items every month to eligible residents of Watauga County.

The Food Recovery Program, providing individual frozen meals made of prepared foods that have been collected and repackaged from local restaurants.

The Market, which provides fresh produce, bread and deli items in a "shopping environment." Items are available on a daily basis.

The Healthy Start Program, which targets children in daycare and provides weekend food packages of nutritious, kid-friendly foods.

Snacks for Scholars, a program that provides healthy snacks to client families with children in the home who need after-school snacks.

The Back Pack Program, which provides snacks to keep children fed over the weekend. Backpacks and delivered to Watauga High School every week during the school year.

The Menu

This year's Empty Bowls Supper features a wide variety of delicious soups, stews and chilies from some of the High Country's best restaurants. They include Casa Rustica's Italian basil minestrone soup, Pepper's Restaurant's potato soup, Melanie's Food Fantasy's curry butternut squash soup, Woodland's Barbecue and Pickin' Parlor's Brunswick stew, Troy's 105 Diner's Troy's traditional chili, and Earth Fare's Thai chicken curry soup.

Stick Boy Bread Company will be providing the bread for the meal, and Friends of Watauga will provide homemade desserts.

Origins of Empty Bowls

In 1990, a high school art teacher in Michigan and his students were looking for a way to raise money for a local food drive. What began as a class project evolved into what we now know as Empty Bowls. Art students made ceramic bowls for a fundraising dinner, and guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread.

After the dinner, the guests kept their handmade bowls as a reminder of the event and of hunger in the world.

By the following year, the originators of the event expanded their reach to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations that fight hunger.

In 2002, Watauga High School art students held their first Empty Bowls Supper.

In the nine years since that first event, Watauga High's Empty Bowls Suppers have raised more than $40,000 for the Hunger and Health Coalition.

For more information, contact Whit Whitaker, Shelton Wilder or Lori Hill at (828) 264-2407, or email Whit Whitaker at (whitarkerw@watauga.k12.nc.us)

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