College students aid hunger relief

Empty Bowls is an international project to fight local hunger. Does your community participate? How does it operate? Photo: Terra, ceramic student who created bowls for hunger relief

NORTHFIELD, MN (5/18/11) – Potters create bowls. Others make soup. The community is invited to buy a bowl and fill it with soup to eat. The funds go to relieve hunger.

Then you take your bowl home. Each time you look at it you are reminded of the empty bowls in the community and world.

How did I get acquainted with Empty Bowls? At my regular monthly Board meeting of the Community Action Center the Executive Director announced the upcoming Empty Bowls effort. So, I trekked to Carleton College, scrounging fifteen dollars to bring along.

Terra, ceramic student who made bowls for hunger relief.

“Arrive early as the bowls go fast,” we were forewarned.

On the lawn, during a beautiful spring day, the event took place. Six hundred and seven homemade pottery bowls, valued at $15 each, adorned some tables. Ceramic art students stood behind the bowls wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Empty Bowls.”

Hundreds of students and adults picked the bowl that attracted them, paid for it, and filled it with soup. The funds raised go for hunger relief.

Being a newcomer, I asked a ceramic student about the merits of my two ‘finalist’ bowls. She shared pro’s and con’s and in the end my first impression bowl was the winner. I filled it with Senate Bean Soup and had a fine lunch.

Afterward, I talked with the local organizer, Carleton art professor Kelly Connole. “Since this Empty Bowls effort was started six years ago, over $26,000 has been donated to the food shelf” Connole said.

Connole heard of Empty Bowls at one of her professional meetings. The first year she organized it, it was small. Now, Empty Bowls reaches out to many, both on campus and in the community.

Soup line at Empty Bowl event at Carleton College

The awareness of hunger is invaluable.

Residents of interest houses and other college groups make the soup. Bread and apples were donated to round out the meal. A music group was sitting on the lawn providing entertainment. A bunch of people crowded around the table to see the bowls. Others cued up to select their soup.

Connole said she keeps her energy for organizing the local event seeing the good it does the college students and community.

“On college campuses not all students have first hand experiences with hunger,” Connole says. “This allows them to be reminded about hunger and do something to help.”

Empty Bowls is an international nonprofit project that gives away food in bowls made by local artists in return for donations to benefit the hungry. The Empty Bowls Project was initiated 1990 by a rural Michigan art teacher and his students. The simple concept spread across the country and the world, and now art teachers and students hold Empty Bowls Project fundraisers of various sizes annually from the elementary to the college level according to an empty bowls web-site.

My new handcrafted ceramic bowl now sits on my fireplace mantle. Miraculously, it matches my three other pieces on the mantle. Just as miraculous is what could be done following the example of these college students involved in relieving hunger.

As the parent of a freshman college student the most frequent comment related to food and his college experience is about ‘the freshman fifteen.’ It seems as if gaining weight and college life is a deeply embedded American stereotype.

How about replacing that college stereotype with one where students give from their abundance. And no bowl remains empty?

Please Comment: What fundraising events do you support for relieving hunger?

Read more from Donna Rae Scheffert on the Washington Times Communities and at Online-Leadership-Tools. She can also be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.



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Donna Rae Scheffert

Donna Rae Scheffert is a facilitator, consultant and writer. Find more information online at

She lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage son and daughter.

Honors and awards include University of Minnesota -Distinguished Extension Campus Faculty Award; Minnesota Rural Futures-FUTURES award; and numerous state and national awards for programs and publications.

Scheffert is an author of practical fieldbooks: Committees That Work: Common Traps and Creative Solutions; Social Capital, Building Leadership Programs, and Facilitation Resources available from

Donna Rae is also a Senior Consultant with and an Associate with

Her civic participation includes: Board Member-Community Action Center; Board Member-Women’s Philanthropic Group, and soccer team coordinator.

Photo Credit: Amber Procaccini

Leadership development expert & educator, Donna Rae Scheffert knows how public action by others for others improves lives - she helps people to get involved and provides tools to propel them toward their goals easier, faster, and with more fun. Read more from Donna Rae at

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