Hundreds of families in Northeastern Pennsylvania face hunger every day, according to local educators.
To help combat this challenge, which is growing, four local institutions of higher learning pooled their resources to raise more than $8,000 in the inaugural Empty Bowls event on Sunday at Misericordia and Wilkes universities.
The money raised will be split evenly among the Weinberg Food Bank, the Back Mountain Food Pantry, the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen and the Luzerne County Community College Food Bank, said event organizer Jean Davis, a potter and member of the Wilkes University Art Department.
The local Empty Bowls effort was fashioned after the international grassroots endeavor to fight hunger in which potters, educators and others create handcrafted bowls that are meant to remind people of all of the empty food bowls in the world, Davis said.
Faculty and students from Misericordia University, King's College, Wilkes University and Luzerne County Community College worked together to provide hand-made pottery bowls used to serve soup meals for a donation of $15. More than 500 were sold.
The objective is not just to raise funds necessary to keep the food banks working, Davis said. The bowl itself provided a constant reminder about members of local communities who can't fill their bowls, she said.
It makes you think about those who need a boost, she said.
Each unique bowl was handcrafted by a local artisan, she said. The event provided an opportunity for them to make get their work out there as well, she said.
Skip Sensbach, ceramic instructor at Misericordia, said more than 200 families in the Back Mountain area use the food pantry each day.
He added that because the soup served in the bowls and the handmade bowls were donated, the costs were minimal, allowing most of the money received to be passed on to the food charities.
At Misericordia, diners enjoyed beef vegetable, Manhattan clam chowder and vegetarian vegetable soups, Sensbach said. He said the majority of the people who took part came from the community just because they wanted to help a good cause.
George and Mickie Lacey and their daughter, Sarah, made the trip from Beaumont to participate, sitting down over some fresh hot soup.
There are a lot of hungry people out there, said Mickie Lacey. This is a good cause.
Sensbach said the colleges are committed to the Empty Bowls project for the long haul and will make it an annual event.
We're already planning for next year, he said.