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Empty bowls fundraiser to address food insecurity

P-J photo by Timothy Frudd St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is preparing to host a fundraiser to address food insecurity in the region. Pictured is the Rev. Luke Fodor with several of the bowls that will be available at the “Empty Bowls Project” event.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is hosting an upcoming fundraising event to help people facing food insecurity in the area.

The “Empty Bowls Project” will provide an opportunity for people to purchase bowls made by local potters, enjoy a variety of soups made by members of the community, experience live music and participate in a local business raffle.

The event will be held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 410 N Main St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 10.

The Rev. Luke Fodor explained the “Empty Bowls Project” was started in the late 1990s.

“The idea was that potters wanted to use their skills to help deal with food insecurity, people who are struggling with hunger,” he said. “There’s something enigmatic about an empty bowl. Throughout history, people that were beggars or had disabilities would stand with a bowl and ask for either food or cash donations. This is a way to bring that symbol back. This gives people the opportunity to take an empty bowl away with them so that the story lives continually.”

According to Fodor, Fredonia has been hosting an annual Empty Bowl event for roughly 14 years and raised over $310,000 to alleviate food insecurity in Chautauqua County.

After this year’s Empty Bowl event in Fredonia, the idea was presented to St. Luke’s to host an event in Jamestown. Fodor said one of the church’s parishioner’s parents own the Reno Pottery shop in Dewittville. Fodor said he and Jamestown Public Market director Linnea Haskin had already been discussing a way to host an Empty Bowl event and quickly agreed to the idea when it was presented.

Fodor said the event will allow people to consider the importance of food and remember those who do not have access to food on a consistent basis.

“We will invite people into the undercroft to look at the bowls, to pick out a bowl or 10, whichever they want, and then to make a donation for those bowls,” he said. “We’re partnering with local restaurants and parishioners are donating soup. We’ll have all kinds of soup that you can choose from if you come through and sample it.”

The event will feature live Christmas music by the Chadakoin Chamber Ensemble and a gift card raffle from various downtown businesses and restaurants.

While the event will provide entertainment for the community, Fodor believes the event will more importantly provide an opportunity to raise awareness for those in need.

“It’s an opportunity to draw our awareness to those that are hungry in this season where we’re thinking about the reason for the season and remembering that there are folks who have various needs,” he said. “I think in a season when we are giving gifts, sometimes we forget that our awareness is a gift.”

Proceeds from the event will help support the Jamestown Public and Mobile Market, an organization that seeks to address “food desert” areas in the Jamestown community. Donations at the event will also help support local food pantries through the Feed More Western New York Food Pantries organization.

Fodor said the event will provide the perfect opportunity for people to “purchase” a unique gift while also donating to a good cause. However, he also hopes that the event has a long-lasting impact on the community by helping people realize the importance of sacrifice and helping others.

“My hope is that people will match the sacrifice of the potters, many of whom will be on hand to volunteer,” he said. “The real sacrifice of giving a gift that is specific to a person and handmade is different, so I think this unique event allows us to also gather the diversity of our community together in one place and really share that joy of sacrificing and do something grander together.”

Fodor said the sacrifice of donating to a good cause despite inflation concerns and the rising cost of living is reflected in the effort and sacrifice exhibited by the people who made the pottery for the event. He explained that someone had to take the time to shape each piece of clay and transform it into a beautiful bowl without receiving any payment.

“That idea of sacrifice I think is a really important thing,” he said. “We know when we sacrifice that it means more. I think we should give until it hurts in a certain way. Anything that’s really worthwhile doesn’t come easy. If you look back at your life and you think about what you’re most proud of, it’s something that actually took effort.”

In addition to the concept of sacrifice, Fodor said the Empty Bowls Project event is a reminder of the “humble origins” of the Christmas season. He said the Christmas story is a “very human” story about a child coming into the world and making a major difference.

“Each of us has the potential, and I think personally that God works through us to do that work,” he said.

Haskin said that despite the perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” the impacts of the pandemic continue to be seen in the food system. She acknowledged that food insecurity is a serious challenge for many people in the Jamestown community.

“There’s still a large amount of people in our community that have to utilize food pantries to get through the month,” she said.

Haskin said the Jamestown Public and Mobile Market is excited to be able to partner with the Empty Bowls Project and local food banks to be able to alleviate the issue of food insecurity.

Fodor and Haskin explained the Jamestown Mobile Market is working on a plan to expand by extending beyond the summer months and provide fresh, local produce to community members even into the winter months. Part of the proceeds for the event will contribute to this initiative.

“We’re really excited that we’re able to support that through this project,” Haskin said. “There are ways for us to extend that because people need fresh local, nutritious produce all year long.”

According to Fodor, the church is anticipating that more than 500 people will attend the upcoming Empty Bowls Project fundraiser. With expectations of a large turnout, Fodor is hopeful the event will be able to make a significant impact in the community.

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