18th annual Empty Bowls event supports Boone Hunger and Health Coalition


Brendan Hoekstra

Locals shop around the Empty Bowls event at Watauga High School on Saturday. All proceeds from the event benefitted the Hunger and Health Coalition.

Daisy Tucker

On March 30, Watauga High School held its 18th annual Empty Bowls event, where students’ handmade bowls were the centerpiece for a community-wide event focused on combating hunger.

In partnership with Hunger and Health Coalition, WHS students made ceramic bowls, which community members bought, along with a meal at the event. Proceeds went toward the Hunger and Health Coalition.

“It is an international project to fight hunger, created by artists, students and art organizations on a community level,” said Teri Niederhammer, program coordinator for the Hunger and Health Coalition. “First held in 1990 in Michigan, the founder wanted to create a way that artists and art students could make a personal difference in their community, including fiber artists, glassblowers, sculptors, painters and other artisans.”

Empty Bowls works to raise money to feed the world’s hungry people, increase awareness of hunger-related issues and to advocate for arts education, according to the organization’s website.

Brett McDonough, WHS teacher and event coordinator, was involved in the event when he was a student. Now he helps in the event’s production each year.

“(Empty Bowls) is meant to raise money to fight hunger while also highlighting the disparities in your community,” McDonough said. “The idea of taking home an empty bowl serves as a reminder of those who are struggling with shortages of basic needs within your community.”

Over the past 17 years, WHS has raised $118,400 from the event, McDonough said, and 100% of it went to Hunger and Health Coalition. Those involved in the event’s production said it would not be possible without students.

“They do everything from making bowls, designing the posters, creating art for the silent auction, designing and printing T-shirts for volunteers to wear, setting up and taking down the event, and so many other things,” said Dacia Tretheway, WHS teacher and event coordinator. “We’re more here to guide them and make sure they have the framework to run the event as much as they can on their own.”

Aside from the handcrafted bowl, community members received a meal with their donation, and they had plenty of options to choose from. Twelve local restaurants including Stick Boy Bread Company, F.A.R.M. Cafe and Pepper’s Restaurant served homemade soups and bread. Students also worked with Friends of WHS to make desserts for the event, Tretheway said.

To Niederhammer, this event represents much more than a community gathering.

“This is so very important because it engages young people and their families to participate in fighting hunger in their community,” Niederhammer said. “It teaches awareness, empathy and a sense of personal pride in knowing that the event truly makes a difference in the lives of our neighbors, not nameless people on the other side of the planet.”

After seeing the long lasting positive impact this event has had on the Boone community, those involved hope to see it continue at WHS for a long time.

“It seems to really unite the community in a positive way, without political or religious affiliation and is very inspiring to see people this excited about giving back to their community and this excited about the art being created by kids and adults,” McDonough said. “We have a very talented county.”