The 11th annual Empty Bowls of Portage County event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Stevens Point Area Senior High School, 1201 North Point Drive, Stevens Point.
The event will be more accessible this year with the debut of “Empty Bowls TO GO,” a drive through service for people who want to participate but do not want to wait in line.
“There are some folks where standing in line can be a problem,” said Lauri Rockman, chair of the event’s organizing committee. She said people with small children or schedule conflicts have sometimes been unable to participate in the event in the past. “We thought we would try this out.”
There will be a person holding a large sign to direct people to the drive-through area behind SPASH. Volunteers will take people’s orders and bring them their soup meal. Rockman said there will be a choice of soups, but no choice of bowl. “They don’t get to pick a bowl,” she said. “(The pre-selected bowls) are quite nice.”
With more than 1,000 expected to attend, the bowl selection process can sometimes be what slows down the line, said Rockman. “We try to tell them it’s not about the bowl, it’s about hunger,” she said.
People who attend Empty Bowls pay $11 and then choose a handcrafted pottery bowl made by area artists, students and community members. The bowl is filled with soup donated by one of more than 30 local restaurants. People can take the bowl home after eating the soup meal, which also includes bread, beverage and a cookie.
Proceeds from the event go to help fund Portage County Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership programs and grants to organizations working to alleviate hunger and the causes of hunger in the community.
The Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership was formed in 2000 and consists of individuals from the public and private sector, including involvement from food pantry consumers. The Partnership developed four action teams to help address and solve hunger issues that are faced in Portage County: community awareness and education, public policy and education systems initiatives, resource development, and giving gardens.
Figures collected by the Partnership said there were 26,922 emergency food requests last year in Portage County, which is down from a peak in 2010 of 30,177. Supplemental food assistance in the county increased from 12,582 cases in 2010 to 14,085 in 2011.
Last year’s Empty Bowls event raised more than $18,000.
“The money all stays local and supports hunger prevention efforts,” said Rockman. “It all gets distributed… Also, it’s just a fun community event. There’s lots of fun things to do with your family.”
In addition to food and fundraising at the event, there will be entertainment and activities for kids and adults, including a raffle, marketplace, clowns, face painting, a pottery demonstration and live children’s music.
The presentation of the 2012 Pat Cassidy Hunger Prevention Partnership Award will also take place during the event. This year’s award will go to St. Vincent de Paul Society in honor of its food pantry efforts.
“We do still need volunteers,” said Rockman. “It takes quite a few volunteers to make it go.”
For more information on Empty Bowls people can visit its website at www.emptybowlsportageco.com.