Good Neighbors

"Empty" Bowls Fill Community With Hope And Help For The Hungry

Minnesota non-profit's event raises funds for neighbors without reliable access to food and brings community together.


You've heard the phrase "glass half empty or glass half full" to describe a person who sees the negative in a situation while another person chooses to see the positive. For a group in Minnesota, that's what empty soup bowls represent: a reminder to people that many of their neighbors are going hungry, and a call to action to help change that.

According to Feeding America, over 37 million Americans, including 11 million children, are what's called "food insecure" meaning they don't have reliable access to affordable nutritious food.

Diners get handmade "empty" bowls as a reminder of the hunger problem in their community.St. Louis Park Emergency Program/Facebook

In St. Louis Park, outside Minneapolis, a non-profit hosts a yearly event to educate the community about the problem of hunger in the community. St. Louis Park Emergency Program, or STEP, organizes Empty Bowls, where neighbors gather in a church social hall to share a meal of donated soup, and take away an "empty bowl." While everything is free, donations are encouraged. All proceeds go to STEP which, among other things, provides food assistance, to the tune of 60,000 pounds of food distributed in 2019.

Empty Bowls is held nationwide to help fight hunger. The first Empty Bowls event in Michigan took place in 1990. STEP began holding its event in 2002 to raise awareness of hunger in St. Louis Park and celebrate the work STEP does to address food insecurity.

Artists work year 'round to craft pottery bowls for the event.

Local artists and students create hundreds of pottery pieces throughout the year which are given to everyone who attends. A variety of local restaurants and other businesses donate the soup and bread. Community members like the high school football team or senior citizens volunteer to help run the event.

Local restaurants donate all sorts of soups for the event.

While donations are taken at the event, that's not the primary focus. It's a day focused on bringing people together and supporting each other. There is a tangible energy in the room as neighbors and old friends connect with each other.

How can you start something good?

If you would like to help STEP fight hunger, you can donate by clicking here. Or find out if there's an Empty Bowls event in your area and attend.


If there isn't an event in your area, why not start one? Click on this link to the national organization for resources. Contact your local food bank for info. Or click here for a link to a how-to article by a woman who started one in her neighborhood, and #StartSomethingGood

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