Pottery Donations Keep Bowls from Going Empty this Holiday Season
Dec 01, 2023

Pottery Donations Keep Bowls from Going Empty this Holiday Season

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – Local pottery studios donated more than 3,000 bowls to the Empty Bowl Project to help fight hunger in the community.

The 27th year of the annual Empty Bowl Project took place Nov. 19 as a collaboration between the Central Texas Food Bank and Meals On Wheels to fund their kids programs. More than 1,000 attendees browsed a room filled with tables of handmade bowls and selected their favorites. Customers bought, washed and filled bowls with a soup of choice to eat while they listened to live music.

Meals on Wheels Central Texas president and CEO Henry Van de Putte said all proceeds go towards alleviating child hunger through Kids Cafe, a program at the Central Texas Food Bank that provides nutritious after-school meals to more than 700 children a day, and Meals For Kids, a program through Meals on Wheels Central Texas providing healthy after-school snacks to children of low income families.

“A bowl is without a purpose if it doesn’t have something in it,” Van de Putte said.

The Empty Bowl project always happens the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and Van de Putte said it symbolizes a celebration of the season of giving.

“I think during the holiday time, Austin Empty Bowl is the perfect way to kick it off,” Van de Putte said. “It says, look, bowls don’t have to be empty.”

Austinites pick out hand-crafted bowls to take home as a reminder that others have empty bowls as part of the Empty Bowl Project at the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 19, 2023. (Lane Rice/Reporting Texas TV)

Kit Adams, the owner of the former ClayWays Pottery Studio & Gallery, founded the Austin Empty Bowl Project in 1997. ClayWays closed in 2017, but former students purchased the 5,000-square foot property and opened Austin Pottery.

“It was first held here in Austin and it has grown and grown and grown over the years and moved several locations,” Austin Pottery co-owner and studio manager Deb Dixon said. “It’s currently at the food bank out south, which is a great facility because of the size that it’s grown to.”

Austin Pottery sponsors the Empty Bowl Project every year and hosts three to four annual bowl-a-thon events for the studio’s students and teachers to donate time making bowls. This location also serves as a drop-off site for the community to donate bowls.

“There’s just a lot of love for this organization and the cause because it’s a great way to bring people together,” Dixon said.

Don Brimberry spins clay on a pottery wheel at Austin Pottery Studio & Gallery in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 16, 2023. Brimberry co-owns and manages the studio, and he also teaches classes there. (Lane Rice/Reporting Texas TV)

The Empty Bowl Project unites a creative community of local businesses. More than 25 local restaurants made soup and bread, and nine local musicians performed throughout the event.

“What’s great is that people can never choose just one, so they’re able to purchase more bowls which helps raise funds for the event,” Central Texas Food Bank CEO Sari Vatske said.

“With one in five kids in our community going to bed hungry, you know hunger is a 365 day issue, but there’s nothing like the holidays that highlights it more,” Vatske said. “This event really helps make sure that families have the food they need throughout the holiday.”

A line began to form three hours before the event started at 11 a.m. Arriving early is part of the tradition for some attendees.

Jessica Pierre Auguste has been coming to the event annually for about 15 years.

“I got here at 8:45, so I was in the third group in line,” Pierre Auguste said.

“I get in there and I pick up all the bowls that I think look pretty until I have a stack of like 12 or 12. Then I go to the tables on the side to put them all out to decide my very favorites and decide on some that I might set back.“

Each bowl cost $30, but many attendees left with handfuls of pottery. This year’s event raised more than $80,000, bringing the total collected over the years to more than $1.4 million.

The Central Texas Food Bank continuously seeks food donations, program funding and volunteers. A member of the food bank community is currently matching all donations until midnight on Dec. 31, so every contribution has double the impact.