Empty Bowls Event Raises Money to Combat Food Insecurity, Cut Food Waste

Waste Not, a Scottsdale nonprofit, hosts its 32nd annual Empty Bowl event, where patrons can purchase handcrafted bowls to help eliminate food insecurity in Arizona. Photo taken at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix on Oct. 14, 2022. (Photo by Scianna Garcia/ Cronkite News)

By Scianna Garcia

October 26, 2022

PHOENIX – For the nonprofit Waste Not, an empty bowl represents the struggles of nearly 1 million Arizonans who can’t find enough to eat every day.

Waste Not has held the Empty Bowls fundraiser for 32 years, selling handcrafted bowls in a partnership with the Arizona Clay Association. The Empty Bowls event, which was held Oct. 14 at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, allows shoppers to purchase a bowl for $20, which includes a lunch from Salad and Go. Any additional bowls were $10 each.

More than $600,000 has been raised over the years to provide 3 million meals to those who face hunger, according to Hillary Bryant, executive director of Waste Not.

Empty Bowls Event Raises Money to Combat Food Insecurity, Cut Food Waste
The Arizona Clay Association provided 1,200 handcrafted bowls to be sold at the Empty Bowls annual event, held this year on Oct. 14, 2022, at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Scianna Garcia/ Cronkite News).

Melissa Kelsey, president of the Arizona Clay Association, said the long-lasting partnership has and will continue to excite the community and volunteers involved in making the bowls.

“One thing that is so great is that we can combine our love of making bowls and pottery with such a great organization and support something that we all feel passionately about with regard to ensuring that we can help with food insecurity.”

The Arizona Clay Association made and donated the 1,200 bowls sold this year. They came from such events as the Bowl-a-Thon at Sunshine Sunflower Studio in central Phoenix, public announcements calling for donations and gifts from partners, including the Phoenix Center for the Arts and Shemer Art Center.

Waste Not, a Scottsdale food rescue organization, commits to connecting thousands of Arizonans with good food that’s at risk of going to waste. Its team of drivers and volunteers rescues perishable foods from Valley catering companies, resorts and event venues and delivers them to agencies that feed the hungry, such as St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Maggie’s Place.

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In addition to fighting hunger, the efforts reduce waste in landfills. According to Waste Not, 40% of food in Arizona is thrown away a year, while nearly 1 million Arizonans are wondering where their next meal will come from.

Bryant said each Empty Bowl event typically raises $20,000 to $25,000, which significantly helps Waste Not’s mission to reduce hunger and waste through innovative community partnerships.

One in 9 Arizonans face hunger, according to FeedingAmerica.org, which calls itself the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.

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In metro Phoenix, food prices have increased 14.1% over the past year, with food-at-home prices rising by 15.7%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Prices are going up and our fuel costs have doubled in the last year,” Bryant said, “so this event is a really big help to our mission to be able to pick up that food and deliver it to those that need it.”

Julia Gonzalez, who attended Friday’s Empty Bowls event, said she has shown her support for the past seven years.

“We have these bowls at home, it’s what we eat our cereal with,” she said. “Every time we take them out, it’s a remembrance of this event and all the hard work that went into it.”

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