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Empty Bowls is the hottest ticket around

April 21: Students, faculty and community residents lined up for dinner outside of the Woods-Penniman Commons to fill their grumbling tummies – and their Empty Bowls.

Empty Bowls

As participants were admitted into the Commons for this year’s annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls, they were greeted with a wide assortment of beautifully crafted ceramic bowls. The fundraiser was aimed at educating the campus community about what they could do to support the local food banks. This was done through a joint effort by Berea’s Service-Learning Program and the contributions of Berea’s student potters.

The event was also used as an opportunity to educate participants of the program about the Berea Community Food Bank and the expiration of the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families. Advocates from Bread for the World, a non-profit organization, provided pens paper and sample letters and encouraged participants to write to Congressional representatives and ask them to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families beyond 2010. The tax credit is scheduled to expire this year.

According to Betty Hibler, the advocate who spoke for the Bread for the World organization, the tax credit has lifted more than 5 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2.6 million children.

One of the sample letters provided for participants by the Bread for the World organization presented a very compelling argument which stated, "Nearly one in four children lives in a family that struggles to put food on the table." The letter urged Congressional representatives "to protect and strengthen EITC and the Child Tax Credit and work toward a day when no parent has to send a child to bed hungry."

This is the eighth time that this fundraiser has been held at Berea College to raise awareness of hunger issues in the community and around the world. The event was sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS), the Berea College Ceramic Apprenticeship Program and other local potters who donated ceramic bowls to the event.

There was live entertainment, a pottery raffle and giveaways, and a wide variety of hot, delicious soups served by the students and community members who prepared food for the event. Although there were many favorites, ranging from beef and chicken chili, country vegetable and potato leek soups, this year one soup stood out above the rest as the hottest ticket in town.

This year’s winner of the annual soup competition was Jeff From. From’s soup entry, centered upon the “New Year’s Day” theme, featured black eyed peas and spinach, although his secret ingredient this year was nutritional yeast.

“That’s the ingredient that ties it all together and gives it the flavor that makes people wonder, ‘What is that,’” From shared.

This was From’s second year entering into the Empty Bowls soup competition. Although he felt humbled by this year’s win, From was more impressed by the collaboration between CELTS and the student potters to help people look at hunger issues. He has attended the Empty Bowls program for six out of the eight years.

Dikshya Bastakoty, a senior Biology major from Nepal, was also an admirer of all of the work that the event organizers did.

“There were a lot of people working to put this together and I really liked it,” Dikshya shared. “The number of people who are helping is actually growing; even the student participants.”

Although this was sophomore Caleb Towers’ first year attending the event, he donated his time to help with the event through Habitat for Humanity along with his friend junior Political Science major Tony Choi. Tony volunteered for the event through the Bonner Scholars Program.

“We sold a lot of tickets,” Caleb shared as he held out a stack of green ticket stubs, “We’ve sold 183 as of right now.”

Caleb, who is an Asian Studies major at Berea College, sold tickets for the event at the door. He was pleased by the positive feedback he received from the program participants as they left full, fulfilled, and clutching their empty bowls.

“Everyone coming out seemed like they really enjoyed it,” Caleb added, “A lot of faculty usually come out to events like this, but there were a lot of students who came out this year. So that was really good to see.”

Senior Nursing major Tenzin Drukdak, a Tibetan student from India, has been coming to Empty Bowls every year that he has been a student at Berea College.

“I think it’s a really beautiful concept,” Tenzin shared. “You come here. You only pay 10 dollars which you would spend anyways if you were to go out to eat. At the same time you are getting a bowl, which is made by the students here. You’re provided food that’s really good. And the proceeds go to the food bank. I think it’s a very neat concept that you can feed yourself at the same time you are feeding someone else .”

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