Fourth graders help feed the hungry with empty bowls

kjahner@newsobserver.comDecember 11, 2013 

Maggie Verstrat, left, and Chyler Perez decorate bowls to be sold for food donations on Thursday.

COURTESY OF JIM HUNT — COURTESY OF JIM HUNT

— Consider it oddly functional alchemy: an empty bowl can beget food for the hungry.

The counter-intuitive formula has been repeatedly vetted and the nutty theory proven scientifically sound: teacher Jim Hunt’s fourth grade art club at Vandora Springs Elementary School has made it work seven years in a row, and Thursday evening will mark the eighth.

Hunt’s club has collected 20,000 foodstuff items in seven years, and the class will offer decorated ceramic bowls in exchange for 20 non-perishable food items each at the school from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

“Our Art Club students look forward to this each year. It not only gives them a chance to ‘hang out’ after school to make art, but they also come to realize how their gifts of art can be used to help others in their community, a lot of which they will never meet,” said Hunt, who is doing this for the 30th year between the school and other outlets.

The Empty Bowls program is actually an international outreach, one started by teacher John Harton. Initially the concept was to invite guests to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Hunt, exposed to the idea when he met Harton at a conference, took it a slightly different direction with his food drive premise. He ran his version for 22 years at at Lincoln Heights in Fuquay-Varina before arriving at Vandora Springs. In the past he has helped students make handmade bowls from paper, painted wood and even recycled record albums.

Hunt said the empty bowls still remind students (and donors) that not every child has food while offering them a chance to help.

“It's that gift of compassion that we strive to instill into our students, knowing that they are never too young to make a difference,” Hunt said.

All of the food will be donated to Garner Area Ministries during the holidays.

“This time of year at the shelters, you put stuff up on the shelves and it’s gone very quickly,” Hunt said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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