Central Vermont “Empty Bowl Benefit” celebrates community, art, good food, and helps fight hunger

Today’s blog was written by Linda Prescott, one of the organizers of the Central Vermont Empty Bowl Benefit.

Empty Bowl Benefit

Five years ago, my friend and fellow potter Bonnie Seideman, ran an idea by me.  Why not enlist the talents of our  potter friends at Mud Studio in Middlesex to raise funds for the Vermont Foodbank? The idea would be to open up the studio for a night where guests, for the price of admission, could select a handmade bowl to keep and then enjoy some homemade soup in their new bowls.  As a volunteer at the Full Ladle soup kitchen at Christ Church in Montpelier, I had seen thousands of  bowls of soup served over the years for nearly 100 guests every week, and it was our partnership with the Foodbank that helped to make these community lunchtime meals possible.   So I knew that Bonnie’s idea was one worthy of lacing up our proverbial shoes and running with.

After the soup bowls were washed and put away that first year in 2014, the Central Vermont Empty Bowl benefit had served 200 bowls of soup and raised $4300. The next three years, we ladled soup for even larger crowds, and now after four years, we have raised a a total $26,000, which translates into 43,160 meals for our neighbors in need. The fifth annual Empty Bowl Benefit will be held this year on Sunday, February 18 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Mud Studio next to the Red Hen complex on Route 2 in Middlesex.  The minimum adult donation is $25, which includes a bowl, soup and accompaniments.  Tickets for children ages 5-12 are $5 for a meal only, and children under 5 are free for a meal only.  Tickets may be purchased at the door or online here.

Although the unfortunate fact that one in four Vermonters needs Vermont Foodbank assistance drives the motivation for the event, the Empty Bowl Benefit has morphed into more than simply a fundraiser.  It has become a celebration of the caring community of central Vermonters gathered for one cold winter night among the potters’ wheels and shelves of clay works-in-progress to enjoy an evening of camaraderie, live fiddle music, a silent auction of handcrafted items, and a steaming bowl of soup  – all in the spirit of helping their fellow Vermonters in need. The soup is accompanied by bread, cheese, hummus, cider and baked goods, all donated by area businesses, as are all the soup ingredients. In addition to bowls made especially for the occasion by the potters at Mud Studio, potters from throughout central Vermont have stepped up to donate their own beautiful bowls. In fact, my experience has been that when I have asked for a donation for Empty Bowl, not only is it gladly given, I am thanked for asking.  Wow!

Volunteers are already going into action for this year’s Empty Bowl  – arranging publicity with the Vermont Foodbank, securing donations and perhaps most fun of all, a crew of potters turning out their creations at a festive bowl-making party. On the weekend of the event, a cadre of volunteers will be found chopping vegetables and assembling ingredients in the bright, sunny Christ Church kitchen, the muscle-bound will be moving the heavy pottery wheels out of the way at Mud Studio, potters will be arranging on tables the hundreds of bowls fresh out of the kiln, and the fiddlers will be tuning up.  So, come on down to enjoy it all and support the amazing work of the Vermont Foodbank.