Carleton’s annual Empty Bowls event will take place 7th Friday (May 12) from 11:30-1:15 p.m. on the Bald Spot. Co-sponsored by the CCCE and the Department of Art and Art History, Empty Bowls raises awareness of hunger issues and funds for food shelves in Northfield by selling student-made ceramic bowls filled with homemade soup. For groups of potters and ceramic artists around the world, Empty Bowls is about combining working with clay and sharing a meal together. Empty Bowls at Carleton is a part of the larger grassroots movement founded in 1990 by artists and craftspeople seeking to raise awareness about hunger and funds to address food insecurity in their local and global contexts.
Food shelves are an essential community asset. Many different people rely on them as an ongoing resource to meet their food needs, especially households that include children and seniors. Over the course of the past year, the Northfield Community Action Center’s (CAC) network of three food shelves across Rice County saw an 81% increase in visits. Food shelves have increasingly been a domain in which accessibility and dignity play an important role in not only supporting food security but decreasing barriers and stigma surrounding hunger.
Professor of Art Kelly Connole’s Spring Term ARTS 230: Wheel Throwing class integrates meaningful community service and experiential learning, both characteristics of applied Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) courses offered at Carleton. Since Connole founded the Empty Bowls project at Carleton in 2004, the event has raised over $91,000 for the Northfield Community Action Center’s (CAC) food shelf. Connole claims to have witnessed a remarkable amount of growth and change in the right direction over the years by way of contributing to the CAC’s Food Access efforts. In a recent interview with Carleton students Madeleine Parr ‘23, Claire James ‘23 and Jack Nelson ‘24, Connole stated, “I feel really lucky to be just a little piece of it, and I think our yearly contribution certainly helps in the much bigger picture of feeding our neighbors … The Northfield food shelf has evolved into a beautiful co-op where people can actually shop for the food that is most relevant and useful to their family. It has also grown to include a satellite food shelf over on the north side of town and in Faribault.”
Entirely dependent on volunteers, donations and program-specific support, the CAC is dedicated to offering a wide range of resources to community members at no cost. These resources include housing support, addiction recovery, employment, clothing and school supplies. A guest visit from CAC Food Access Program Director Michael Pursell to Connole’s ARTS 230 class in April reaffirmed just how interconnected the CAC’s efforts to sustain three food shelves (two in Northfield, one in Faribault) stocked with fresh, healthy and culturally specific foods are to their greater mission: meeting the basic needs of community members with equity and dignity at the forefront of everything they do.
In discussions about Empty Bowls’s impact, every student in the ARTS 230 ceramics class agreed about how difficult it is to navigate the material reality of hunger and food insecurity as Carleton students living on campus, let alone the inconceivable pressure and strain of trying to provide for a l family of four in Rice County. Alice Davila ’23 believes that Carleton has a responsibility to give back to the local community, stating “We are a well-resourced campus. It’s important to highlight the surrounding community and neighborhood and make as much money as we can.” Bella Zerwas ‘25 noted, “We are in a very separate Carleton bubble. This is a way to build a better relationship with the community.”
Here’s how you can participate in Empty Bowls! Come to the tables set up outside on the Bald Spot (or Upper Sayles in case of heavy rain) on Friday, May 12, 2023 during Convo time. Choose from over 500 beautiful handmade bowls made collaboratively by ARTS 230 students and ceramics student workers. Make a donation ($25 is recommended, but participants can choose an amount that is right for them) to the Northfield Community Action Food Shelf using Venmo, credit cards or cash and enjoy a community meal of delicious bread and soup donated by generous students, faculty, staff, local bakeries and friends. Lastly, keep the bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls and stomachs in the Northfield community and around the world. Everyone is welcome to come and engage with the Empty Bowls event, regardless of your background, experience with food insecurity or status as a Carleton student, staff or faculty member.
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