UW Oshkosh joined the international project to fight world hunger with the Empty Bowls event held on Nov. 15 in Titan Underground, raising $915 for the Day by Day Warming Shelter in Oshkosh in just two hours.
Empty Bowls is a grassroots movement with chapters all around the world that brings together local pottery makers and art students with hunger-fighting organizations to raise money through donating ceramic bowls and serving a simple meal of soup.
The project began in 1990 with the objectives of fighting and raising awareness toward hunger while supporting arts education.
Guests of the event got to choose from an array of ceramic bowls made by UWO students in ceramics classes and donated by art professor and ceramicist Craig Clifford, which sold for $5 or $10 each, with any additional donations welcome.
Participants were then given a serving of soup and bread in carry-out containers and asked to keep their ceramic bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls and empty stomachs in the world.
UWO Program Adviser for Diversity and Inclusion Programs Lee Stovall organized the event for the second year in a row.
“Lots of Empty Bowls programs take place all over the nation,” Stovall said. “And I’m happy to plan a program that gives donations to people who are doing work to provide services for folks who need it.”
Stovall gave a speech at the event talking about issues of homelessness and hunger in Wisconsin and how people of color and LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by these issues.
“I think it’s important to think about and talk about hunger and homelessness and the ways in which we can help or how we can create an impact,” Stovall said.
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin found that more than 10% of Winnebago County residents in 2017 experienced food insecurity.
According to a report from the Oshkosh Area United Way, local food pantries in Oshkosh and Omro tracked a monthly average of 3,800 families coming through their food pantries, with Oshkosh Area Community Pantry distributing more than a million pounds of food in 2018.
This kind of local food insecurity makes community events like Empty Bowls so beneficial for Oshkosh.
Stovall said this year’s event was a success and had a great turnout with about 120 people showing up.
“We had six bowls left over, which is like a record; usually we have in between 10 and 20,” Stovall said. “We usually have a whole bin full of leftovers, but this year we don’t have that problem [and] I’m really happy about it.”
Stovall said that one important aspect of their position as the program adviser for diversity and inclusion programs is connecting the campus to the larger Oshkosh and Fox Valley community.
“I think we have a responsibility as a campus to be connected to our community,” Stovall said. “And I like that this event takes place on our campus and the planning and execution of the event is something that happens internally in the campus, but we are able to connect with organizations outside of the university that are in the community and be helpful in those ways.”