Empty Bowls fundraiser feeds kids in Dearborn, Michigan
Hungry supporters of Dearborn Public Schools’ annual Empty Bowls event perused more than just a colorful assortment of handmade clay bowls before breaking bread at the Nov. 14 benefit.
Red- and blue-colored 3D-printed bowls from Nowlin Elementary School were quickly gobbled up before and during meal time at Park Place Banquet Hall, the event’s co-host. Art teacher Emily May said multiple 3D printers obtained through a grant allowed students to add a unique element to the annual fundraiser.
“We were able to have our fourth grade students model, design and print these bowls with the help of the Tinkercad program,” she said, “and each bowl took about ten to 12 hours to print. They’ve really caught people’s attention.”
Now in its 31st year, Empty Bowls gives guests the chance to select a one-of-a-kind handmade bowl and enjoy a serving of soup and bread for a minimum $5 donation. The items are made by students in kindergarten through high school who attend Dearborn Public Schools, as well as by the district’s art teachers.
The event typically raises $3,000 annually for Gleaners Community Food Bank and Blessings in a Backpack, local charities that help feed the hungry. A tin can raffle featuring various handmade and manufactured items, and sales of photographs and loaves of bread, also added to the event’s bottom line.
Nationally last year, 34 million people experienced food insecurity, which means that during some point in 2021, they had difficulty providing enough food for all household members. Empty Bowls events like the one in Dearborn are held globally as part of a grassroots movement by artists and craftspeople to combat hunger.
Kate Blair is a retired district art resource teacher and one of the event’s organizers. She said the fundraiser also has special meaning for the young artists who contribute their handiwork to it.
“The students need to understand the critical component of giving back,” she said. “It gives them a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that they’ve done something good, and we hope that’s something that sticks with them as they grow up.”
Nowlin Elementary School art teacher Emily May poses with 3D-printed bowls from her fourth-grade students.