Help fill local hunger needs by supporting virtual Empty Bowls fundraiser

As families continue to struggle to get back to normal work and lives through the pandemic, supporting one of Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties’ major annual fundraisers is an important step in supporting the community.

Empty Bowls is an annual fundraiser that is typically hosted in-person, which one Empty Bowls event in each of the three counties Second Harvest supports, says Audrey Vanzant, development associate for Second Harvest.

“The idea is that people are waiting in line to receive a bowl with soup in it to simulate the experience of what it is like to wait in line to have your empty bowl filled when you’re a community member experiencing hunger and in need of support,” she says.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event shifted online in 2020 and will remain virtual this year – running from April 22-29.

“Our saying is ‘Fill a cart to fill an empty bowl,’” Vanzant says. “The website has a shop table, just like any other online shopping. That week, people can go and shop online and have items shopped to them or do local pickup.

“It’s great because 100 percent of the proceeds come to us at Second Harvest for operating expenses and programs.”

The pandemic increased those operating expenses by 200 percent, says Vanzant, adding that in 2019 Second Harvest served more than 37,000 families, but in 2020 it served more than 65,000 families.

“A lot of people who never had to use the foodbank or our other resources before were hit hard with loss of jobs and didn’t know where their next meal was coming from,” she says.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser helps ensure Second Harvest can fill those ongoing needs.

Bowls are all donated by Wittenberg University in Clark County and by local artists in Champaign and Logan counties, Vanzant says. They can be purchased on the site for $15 each, and other items, including raffle entries, pottery and more, will also be available to purchase.

Though the organization hopes to bring the event back in-person eventually, Vanzant says the 2020 online turnout was great and that it was nice to see support for Second Harvest coming from other cities and states across the country.

Another way to support Empty Bowls is to become an event sponsor. Various sponsorship levels are available starting at $100. Sponsors can be individuals or businesses, named or anonymous, and sponsorship comes with a recognition engraved wooden spoon (think plaque), social media shoutout, bowls, and other promotion, depending on the sponsorship level.

To sign up to be a sponsor, contact Vanzant at [email protected].

“In 2020, we served over 10 million meals in the three counties because it was such a critical time for everyone,” she says. “We know hunger is an issue, but not everyone realizes how much it has increased due to the pandemic. By having our services at Second Harvest – our drive through, our mobile distribution, our programs for children and seniors – we are going to get food to people who need it. That’s what we’re here for.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.

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