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Feeding the hungry: Annual Foothills Empty Bowls event to be held Oct. 16


Elizabeth Medora

CAREFREE – Last year, one in five Arizonans went through days when they didn’t know if they could afford to buy food, according to the Food Research and Action Center’s April 2015 report. These families who are struggling to put food on the table include local residents. In the north valley, the Foothills Food Bank is a primary resource for struggling families, both for emergency food supplies and ongoing assistance.  

“We are serving over 450 clients/families per month,” said Foothills Food Bank Executive Director Pam DiPietro.

Putting an end to hunger is at the forefront of Empty Bowls, a grassroots project now in its 25th year. Locally, the Foothills Empty Bowls is happening Friday, Oct. 16, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Carefree Town Center. Empty Bowls is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Foothills Food Bank, raising an average of $18,000 each year.

Foothills Empty Bowls guests choose unique bowls handmade by Sonoran Arts League artisans. A $15 donation is asked for each bowl; the price includes a pasta lunch catered by Harold’s Corral and served in the specialty bowls.

Sonoran Arts League Empty Bowls Chair Carole Perry noted that one $15 donation will cover 75 food bank meals. All the proceeds go directly to the food bank – no funds are held back for expenses.

“Every single penny goes to the food bank,” she emphasized. Perry has organized Sonoran Arts League’s participation in Empty Bowls for 15 years. Every year, she makes hundreds of glass bowls for Foothills Empty Bowls and downtown Phoenix’s Empty Bowls event, which falls the Friday before Foothills Empty Bowls. Through the Sonoran Arts League, local artists donate their time and skills, creating thousands of bowls to sell. Keeping up with the demand for bowls takes many hands and many hours of work.

“In the first year of Empty Bowls, we ran out of bowls in 45 minutes!” Perry said. After seeing how popular the event was, Perry worked to bring in more artists. She noted that this year, in addition to well-known artists, there are many new artists sharing their crafts, all with the goal of benefiting the food bank. 

“We have a number of artists who are very determined to make sure this event raises as much as it possibly can,” Perry said. She emphasized that for many people, it doesn’t take much to be in need of financial help. Medical bills, layoffs, and unexpected expenses can happen to anyone.

“A lot of people could find themselves in need at any given time,” Perry said.

Along with the proceeds from the sale of the bowls, proceeds from a silent art auction held during the event are also donated to the food bank. Other sponsors of the event include the Town of Carefree, Harold’s Corral, Marjon Ceramics & Laguna Clay, and Costco. Donors include Bashas’, Saguaro and Cactus Shadows High School students, Arizona Clay, Sonoran Trails Middle School, Paradise Valley Community College ceramics students, and local potters and artists who made and donated the bowls and auction items.

This year, Foothills Empty Bowls coincides with the first year of Carefree’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, created by renowned Pumpkin Carver and Sculptor Ray Villafane. The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden will open for the first time on Oct. 16 at 9 a.m. Visitors to Empty Bowls can visit the open-to-the-public pumpkin garden, which will adjoin the Empty Bowls event. More than 50 incredible pumpkin works of art will be on display.

For those who can’t make the Empty Bowls event but would still like to support the Foothills Food Bank, the food bank is in need of monetary and food donations.

“Right now we can use monetary donations to purchase the items that we keep running out of, such as tuna, pasta sauce, mac and cheese, corn, green beans, and lunch soups,” DiPietro said. Call the food bank at (480) 488-1145 to arrange a donation drop-off.

Empty Bowls offers an opportunity to purchase beautiful, handmade works of art with a meaningful story behind them. The bowls make ideal gifts and keepsakes and are also suited for everyday use; many of the bowls are microwave-safe, and all of them are food-safe and leak-proof. Each bowl is unique and represents the goal of Empty Bowls: making sure no one goes hungry.

Perry noted that these special bowls aren’t just for decoration or for food use.

“It’s in your house to remind you that there are empty bowls every day throughout the world,” Perry said.

Foothills Empty Bowls will run 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16, at the Carefree Town Center, 101 Easy Street, in Carefree.