In the past three years, Empty Bowls raised more than $26,000 for the Back Pack Buddies program, which sends seven meals per weekend home with children who show need.
Jayme Laney, local art teacher and potter, first heard of Empty Bowls while taking classes for his master’s degree in Marietta.
“My friend Natalie Goodwin, a local artist and musician, and I were in a class together at Lesley University Cohort. One of our professors, who is from Colorado, shared his story about Empty Bowls in his hometown of Fort Collins. Natalie and I were both potters and felt like we could help out our own community through the project. After several years of thinking about it and pondering the big question of how, I started having meetings with like-minded people.”
Back Pack Buddies is a joint effort of various churches and community organizations. In an email to The Daily Tribune News, Paula Womack said, “The city and county school systems partnered in 2010 to apply for a Community Foundation grant which would serve 30 students in the city and 30 students in the county schools. With this pilot project, students were given a bookbag filled with easy to prepare food on Friday. The bookbags were returned on the following Monday to be repacked by the volunteers in our community. The program has grown, serving more than 700 students in the city and county schools during the 2013-2014 school year.
“Hunger is not just a Cartersville issue. It is a growing problem throughout our country. In the U.S., more than half of the hungry have one full-time working adult in the household. In 2006, the term hunger was replaced with the term food insecure by the federal government. Whatever term is used, those going hungry has increased to 48 million in 2012, a five-fold jump since the late 1960s and a 57 percent increase since the late 1990s. According to the August 2014 issue of National Geographic, there were 300 food pantries in our nation in the 1980s as opposed to 50,000 food pantries in our country today. The school systems with the support of the masonic lodge and other civic groups, churches and individuals are doing their part to combat the issues of food insecurity by providing meals for children so that they can come to school ready to learn.”
Laney and other potters are preparing for the event by crafting 500 bowls, which are to symbolize to patrons the empty bowls that remain not only in the Bartow community but also around the world.
One church involved with aiding the school within Cartersville is The Church at the Well. Pastor Andy Postell said he first became aware of hunger in the United States several years ago while pastoring in another community.
Postell said, “I was one of those people who thought hunger only existed in other nations. I learned otherwise from a friend who was a judicial advocate. She told me about a little girl who only ate lard because that was all she had. The little girl was about the same age as my daughter at the time; it really impacted me. I realized if my daughter was hungry, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to be able to feed her. Then I realized if I would do that for her, why not for other children in our community?”
It costs about $6 to fill one back pack for the weekend; however, the program can usually operate at a lower cost due to donated food.
“Empty Bowls is an incredible event because it raises awareness and funds for Back Pack Buddies. I strongly urge people to get involved in a local school or community group; they will see the need is bigger than you can imagine. There actually are people in Bartow County who are hungry,” Postell said.