Annual Empty Bowls help the less fortunate in Oxford and Lafayette County

Published 10:17 am Monday, February 6, 2017

While couples around the country show their love and appreciation for each other this Valentine’s Day, local folks can spread some love to their fellow neighbors by enjoying a bowl of hot soup.

The annual Empty Bowls event has been helping to put food on the tables of the less fortunate in Oxford and Lafayette County by selling fresh, homemade soup in hand-crafted ceramic bowls for more than a decade.

For most of those years, the event has been held at the Oxford-University United Methodist Church; however, since the church is undergoing renovations, the event had been moved to the Oxford Conference Center and will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 14.

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Organizer Barbara Smith said attendance at last year’s event was down from previous years and hopes the new location will make it easier for more folks to attend.

“It has great parking and the room size is larger,” she said.

More than 20 restaurants and individuals volunteer to provide gallons of soup for the event that range from the humble chicken soup to seafood gumbo.

This year’s theme is “Someone’s bowl is always empty.”

For $20, attendees will receive the soup and bowl of their choice, a bottle of water and bread.

In past years, the event has raised up to $15,000 for The Pantry — a nonprofit organization that began in 1982 to provide food on a weekly basis to any resident of Oxford or Lafayette County in need of assistance.

“This past year, The Pantry fed approximately 1,000 individuals every month,” Smith said.

The soups will be served in bowls created by the Ole Miss Mud Daubers ceramics club and other area artists.

“We have about 800-plus bowls at this time,” Smith said. “The Mud Daubers make and donate most of them every year; however, Ron Dale is on our committee and makes and donates about 200-plus and other local potters donate bowls as well.”

The soup can be purchased and eaten at the conference center or taken “to go.”

Empty Bowls began in 1990 when a high school art teacher in Michigan conceived of the idea as a way for his students to raise money for a food drive.