At the recent Empty Bowls event that took place in the Campus Center at Princeton Day School, students, faculty, staff and parents came together for a night of conversation and community.
As described on the PDS website: “In 1990, a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem. They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive. What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world. By the following year, the originators had developed this concept into Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations that fight hunger. Since then, Empty Bowls events have been held throughout the world, and millions of dollars have been raised to combat hunger.”
Eric Rempe, Ceramics teacher and one half of the team that organizes Empty Bowls each year, says that the amount of money raised is not the focus of the Empty Bowls project at PDS. “We really want to focus on how many meals we can provide as a result of the event. This year, we should be able to provide more than 25,000 meals based on the bowls we sold.”
The families who benefit from the Empty Bowls event are the most important aspect of the equation when it comes to the project; however, a strong sense of community is essential to the creation and execution of the event as well.
Ceramics students in the fourth, eighth and Upper School grades design, create and finish the bowls. Rempe says that even the process of creating the bowls can be a communal one. “Some students will create and finish their bowl from start to finish, but we also have a community table in the Ceramics studio during the project that allows students to come in at various points of the process - such as glazing, painting, drawing, trimming - so a bowl could have been worked on by two or more students.” Each of the bowls that were crafted from the community table do not have a signature, but just the words “Empty Bowls” stamped or etched into the bottom.
The service learning aspect of the project is where the other half of the Empty Bowls faculty team comes in. As the Director of Service Learning, Marjorie Gibson ’84 recognizes that this project is an opportunity to allow PDS students to address food insecurity which is felt within our broader community.
Rempe says, “This entire event is student-driven. They create the bowls here on campus, they help with every aspect of the planning of the event and on the night of the event - they basically run the entire thing. Long after everyone had gone home, these students were in the back of the kitchen cleaning up dishes and more. They really knocked it out of the park and I think they had experiences that night that led to revelations about how powerful service can be that will stay with them for a lifetime.”
Empty Bowls is a six week project that culminates into one very special night for the entire Princeton Day School community. From the parent volunteers who pick up the soup that is donated by restaurants in Princeton (Brick Farm Market, D'Angelo's Italian Market, Olives, TerraMomo Bread Company, Rocky Hill Tavern and even our very own Flik Dining team!) to the students who create the bowls and run the event, this project was made more special by the fact that the entire community was invited to experience it in person, together.