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Empty Bowls in Wichita Falls started eight years ago to help fight hunger in our community. It will take place again on October 15th at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art (WFMA) at Midwestern State University located at #2 Eureka Circle.

According to Kara Nickens, CEO of the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, “We have a lot of great artists that contribute bowls, so we encourage people to come out and get some good soup and also a commemorative bowl to represent all the empty bowls in our country. This is one of our largest fundraisers which will allow us to purchase food to feed those in need in our community.”

With the ticket price of $35 for advance tickets or $40 at the door, you receive a lunch prepared by one of 17 restaurants, a unique handmade ceramic bowl, and a chance to purchase more bowls for the price of $15 each. “The goal is to help fill the empty bowls in our community. We want to raise money to support the Food Bank. One in seven adults is food insecure and one in four children are food insecure, which means they are not sure where their next meal is coming from,” said Amanda Culley, one of the organizers of the event. “Last year, $45,000 was raised by the event and this year we are on course to bring in the same number.”

“We make about 1,000 bowls every year,” said Steve Hilton, the ceramics professor at MSU. “The bowls are made by myself, my resident artists, students, guest artists, and a large continuing education group. It is a pretty large contingency of people that are interested in helping the hungry of our area. It is a pretty special thing, and I am really proud of our community that we are able to raise that kind of money for people that aren’t as fortunate as we are. It just speaks volumes to who Wichita Falls is. We are happy to help, and it is great that we have the ability and capability to do this good thing. It also teaches the students that they need to be a part of it, too, and that is important.”

This year they will also have an art show that coincides with the event featuring ceramics, metal art and photography. The pieces are for purchase, and a percentage of the sale goes to the food bank, but the percentage depends on the individual artists. Amanda said that some of the artists donate 50 percent while others donate the whole amount.

“It is such a great event in our community. Empty Bowls is made up of local community members. We are all volunteers that come together. We all have a passion for giving back and helping the food insecure. Some of us have never experienced food insecurity, wondering where our next meal is coming from. When you look at the children, sometimes you really see the need. They say in the cafeteria that when food is left over, the children will ask if they can take it home to their brothers and sisters or for their family,” Amanda shared.

“You know there is the poverty simulation where you have so many hours without transportation, so how do you get back and forth to support your children, and how do you get food for them, and what does that look like for your day,” she said passionately.

The Food Bank has answers for those problems. “We just recently launched our mobile pantry. We are going out and identifying food deserts, a place where there are not any supermarkets or stores close by to buy food. We provide a 30 pound box of food along with a bag of produce to individuals in need and currently the places we are going are all funded by United Regional Healthcare. They pay for the food and the staff. We are looking to get additional sponsors so we can go out to other food deserts,” said Kara. “The truck travels to meet you where you are,” Kara explained. “They post on Facebook and let the media know where they go every day. They move around that way they are accessible to every part of the community at least one time during the week.”

“We have our childhood hunger programs where our Kid’s Café program provides hot meals to kids at after school enrichment programs. We do about 100,000 meals each year. We have our Power Pack for kids backpack program. We supply supplemental foods for kids to take home on the weekend that might not have anything to eat until they go to school. We have our produce express program where we go out to areas and give out fresh fruits and vegetables for free to people in the community because, for some, produce is a luxury and they are not able to purchase it, so they get it directly off of our truck,” Kara added.

Kara said that the Food Bank serves 12 counties in our area. The Food Bank works very hard on a daily basis with their staff to provide food for the needy. “It is so heartwarming to see what the Food Bank puts back into the community, so it is great to see the community supporting them,” Kara said with a smile.

This event wouldn’t be possible without United Market Street, KFDX, as well as many foundations and other individuals in the community. Wichita Falls comes together at Empty Bowls to help take care of our own. Come out and participate. The WFMA will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The food will be tasty and prepared by Pelican’s, Parkway Grill, Texas Roadhouse, McAllister’s, Market Street, and various other restaurants in the community.   

            -Cindy Kahler Thomas