Empty Bowls Luncheon seeks to educate about hunger

By on May 1st, 2013

The Empty Bowls 2013 Luncheon and Silent Auction will take place Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church. The event is open to the public, and it will cost $20 ahead of time or $25 at the door to benefit the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.

The luncheon will host Becky Burleigh, UF women’s soccer coach, Amanda Butler, UF women’s basketball coach and former gator, and Mike Peterson of the Atlanta Falcons, as keynote speakers.

During the luncheon, there will be a silent and live auction, with bowls handcrafted by local artists and signed by athletes and celebrities including Tiger Woods, Tim Tebow, Will Muschamp, Sister Hazel and others.

Students from Alachua County schools have made more than 1,100 ceramic, wooden and cloth bowls for attendees to choose from and take home with them.

The bowls are intended “to remind people of the hungry who are in this community,” said Marsha Conwell, executive director of Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.

In Alachua County, one in four children are hungry, as are one in five seniors.

“It’s just a reminder of the many people who will have an empty bowl, or empty plate, or empty cup tonight, tomorrow night, the next night – until we can get the community to get some awareness on what hunger really is,” Conwell said.

Conwell expects more than 600 people to attend the luncheon.

“The whole idea of the luncheon is to let you know what we are and what we do, but also to help you realize what it is to be hungry,” said Loretta Griffis, assistant development coordinator of the Bread of the Mighty.

A simple lunch of bread, a piece of fruit, Chick-fil-A soup and water is included in the entry fee.

“We hope you go away hungry because that makes it more personal,” Griffis said.

Griffis said hunger can be hidden and is more prevalent than many people realize.

“Whatever side of town you live on, you can pretty well bet that there’s hungry people,” she said. “If you look to the left, if you look to the right, you’re going to see hunger. They can be dressed in a business suit, they can be dressed in jogging pants or they could just be a homeless person. But hunger doesn’t have a face.”

With the economy in its current state, Griffis has seen more people needing food than ever.

“People who used to be able to donate food are needing food now,” she said.

Griffis uses the phrase, “the working hungry” to describe people who are employed but still require assistance from the Bread of the Mighty for relief.

“Even though they’re working maybe one, two jobs, with the economy the way it is, they can’t afford to feed their family and keep gas in the car and pay their bills,” Griffis said. “The need is tremendous.”

Last year, 5.1 million pounds of food went through the Bread of the Mighty warehouse. More than 130 agencies come to their facility to get food for their soup kitchens and pantries to feed the hungry.

“We have been here since 1987, and last year was the first year that we did a fundraiser,” Griffis said. “We are going to make this an annual affair.”

Laura Foreman wrote this story online.

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