9th Annual Empty Bowls event serves up homemade soup for a great cause

By Tom Di Camillo

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – Students from both the art club and the culinary arts program are teaming up to fill more than 300 bowls with soup during the 9th Annual Central Arizona College Empty Bowls event on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the Signal Peak Campus.

The soup luncheon will run from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the patio of the Bradley Sizer, Jr., Center for Business Studies (Building N).

For a minimum $10 donation, guests will receive a stoneware bowl of their choice filled with soup. Instead of leaving the bowl for service attendants to clear, guests can just take the bowl home.

The event is open to the public.

All net proceeds from the event will benefit a trio of local food banks – the St. Vincent de Paul in Casa Grande, Sharing Hands, and the Casa Grande Food Bank.

“Empty Bowls is a worldwide grassroots initiative that started in 1990 in Michigan to help fight hunger,” Susan Ramos, professor of art, explained. “Traditionally these events are held around the holidays to help raise money for food banks.”

This marks the ninth consecutive year the event has been held at CAC’s Signal Peak Campus. The entire project is a joint effort between the Central Arizona College Art Club, the institution’s culinary arts department, Student Leadership, and Marjon Ceramics, Inc.

Culinary Arts students enrolled in both Baking and Pastry I and II will help prepare gallons of soup, dozens of pans of corn bread, beverages and dessert. Students from the Dining and Beverage class and the Catering Operations class will help with the set-up, service and cleanup.

“The students participate in this event outside of regular class time, making it a true volunteer effort,” Chef Carol Bennett, CAC’s culinary coordinator/preceptor, said. “Funds for purchasing the soup ingredients come from the Art Club and the Culinary Arts Club. We are thrilled to participate in this event and support the local community.”

Ceramists at Central Arizona College create food-safe, stoneware bowls by donating their material and time. More than 500 pounds of clay is being donated this year by Marjon Ceramics, Inc., located in Phoenix, and the Laguna Clay Company.  More than 300 bowls are available at this year’s event.

Professional potters as well as students contribute their handmade artwork, which may be priced around $35 if sold retail.

“Student cooks prepare the soups,” Carol Bennett, CAC’s professor of culinary arts and resident chef, said. “The meal is served very simply to demonstrate solidarity with folks who are served in a soup kitchen.”

The bowls are more than just a kitchen amenity, according to Ramos.

“Guests choose a bowl to use that day and to keep as a reminder that there are always empty bowls in the world.”

For the first five years of the event, the CAC Art Club annually produced about 100 bowls to sell. But production increased exponentially, with nearly 1,300 bowls produced during the last four years.

The event has raised more than $10,000 through its first eight years.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work, we have more than 300 new bowls ready for the soup line,” Ramos said. “We do not pre-sell bowls or tickets in order to give everyone a fair chance to choose their favorite bowl.”

The sale begins promptly at 11 a.m. Once purchased, the bowls are washed and filled with vegetarian minestrone or taco soup. The participants may eat in the culinary arts dining room or on the East Garden Patio. Bowls will be rinsed following the event so guests may take them home.

Lunch also will be available for those on the go.

“There will be a separate take-out line for people who wish to take their soup home or back to the office,” Bennett explained.

For more information about the Empty Bowls event, please contact Susan Ramos by phone at 520-494-5084, or by e-mail at susan.ramos@centralaz.edu.

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814