Although some of the teachers and students at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School are participating in their second annual Empty Bowl Project, the bowls on the school's cafeteria tables were far from empty at lunchtime during the school's recent Superintendent's Day.
For $5.00 donations, staff members taking part in an on-site workday, could purchase their own unique student-crafted clay bowls and dine on assorted soups and breads prepared and served by some of their friends and co-workers. All money collected was passed along to Trading Post South, which operates the Cattaraugus-area food pantry and ministers in many other ways to people feeling the pinch of hard times.
The Empty Bowl Project is actually an international, grassroots, craft-based effort to end hunger. It's been around for about twenty years, having gotten its start in 1990 in a single school system in Detroit, Michigan.
While a cafeteria full of Catt-LV staff members enjoy a hearty luncheon of homemade soups and breads, the leaders of the Empty Bowl Project stand with Elizabeth O’Neill, manager and “heart” of Trading Post South. From left: Art teachers, Robin Clark, Carol Purdy, and Pam Moran, with Ms. O’Neill, and her daughter, Caitlin.
Since that humble start, the project has grown and spread from nation to nation, from continent to continent, until it's now recognized as a world-wide, movement that has raised tens of millions of dollars for organizations fighting hunger. Perhaps even more significantly, it has done much to raise public awareness of hunger in the world at large and at home.
This year, art teachers Carol Purdy and Robin Clark headed up the project. Mrs. Purdy helped her seventh graders and her high school craft classes through the intricacies of molding, painting and firing the hand-crafted clay bowls. "The kids love doing something that gives back to the community," she commented.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clark found the project a natural for her high school ceramics class. Another art instructor, Ms Pam Moran, one of last year's project leaders, was unable to take a lead role this year, since her room became temporarily unavailable due to current on-campus construction work. She managed to compensate, however, by helping with the Empty Bowl luncheon, and offering moral support, as well as any other assistance required.
All three teachers would have preferred to hold the event on a day when the children who created all those unmatchable bowls could be present. However, according to Mrs. Clark, when school's in session, it's impossible to get the teachers together since the students' lunch periods extend over a period of several hours, and the teachers are never free at the same time.
As it was, most staff members attended the "feast," and Clark took the opportunity to remind them that the bowls had been made, not only as containers, but also as reminders. "Once you have your bowl at home," she said, "every time you look at it, think of all the people in this world who go to bed hungry each night."
Ms O'Neill also seized the moment to extend her heartfelt thanks to the faculty for their support of the Empty Bowl project, and also for their generous contributions at Christmas time. Saying that their donations had been and would continue to be put to good use, she told them that each dollar received would purchase seven pounds of food. "So you've helped a lot," she said, winding up with an enthusiastic "You guys rock!"