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2012 Spring Issue 7 (May 18, 2012)

Empty Bowls Raises Awareness of 'Hidden Hunger' in Northfield

May 18, 2012
By Kaitlyn Gerber

Students, faculty, and Northfield residents alike made their way to the Bald Spot last Friday for Carleton’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, which raises money for the Northfield Community Action Center’s food shelf.

Under beautiful, sunny weather, and with a backdrop of student-provided music, people donated money in exchange for a handmade bowl and homemade soup and bread. This year alone, over 600 ceramic bowls were made by student and faculty members of the Carleton Art Department, while numerous pots of soup and loaves of bread were made by residents of the campus interest houses.

The concept of Empty Bowls was started in 1990 by a Michigan art teacher, who wanted to come up with a more creative way to teach his students about hunger in their community. Since then, “Empty Bowls” has grown into an international initiative to raise awareness of hunger in local communities. In a country where food stamps are on the rise and one in eight people struggle with daily food insecurity, the event serves a very relevant cause.

Empty Bowls has been a part of Carleton’s community since 2005. In its first year alone, the event raised $741. Since then, the event has brought in thousands of dollars annually, for a total of $38,479 in the eight years it has been on Carleton’s campus. This year alone, Empty Bowls raised $6,454, the second-highest annual total since 2005.

“Obviously, any event that raises money for the food shelter is helpful, but Empty Bowls especially so,” said Stephanie Helkenn, who works at the Northfield Community Action Center. “We can purchase so much food with that money.” She added that many students and Northfield residents do not realize the extent of homelessness and hunger insecurity in Northfield. 

“There is a significant homeless population [in Northfield],” she said. “There are people who couch hop because they have nowhere to live. It’s nice weather, so you’ll find a lot of them camping right now.” Many of these people depend on the Community Action Center’s Food Shelf program, which serves up to 500 families a month, a total of almost 1,600 individuals.

“A large number of people utilize our services here,” she said. “In a town as small as Northfield, it’s a good chunk of the population. There is a definite homeless issue here, but it’s hidden.”

In addition to aiding the Northfield community, Empty Bowls is also one of the most popular events on Carleton’s campus. “Empty Bowls is always enjoyable every year,” said Brianna Engelson ’13. “In my opinion it’s one of the best events at Carleton.”

“I had a lot of fun making soup with my residents,” said Ian Hollyer ’13, RA of Parish House, which contributed homemade chicken soup to the event. “We all got together as a house to make our soup.”

John O’Brien ’14 also commented on how interesting it is to see the artwork made by other Carleton students. “It’s really fun to see all of their work going to such a good cause. Plus, it’s always fun to eat soup.”

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