Editor’s note: Gimme 5 is a five-question interview about a topic of local interest.
Who: Suzanne Becker, assistant director, Feed My People Food Bank.
Talks about: The Empty Bowls benefit that raises money to provide food to hungry families across west-central Wisconsin.
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1.
Where: The Florian Gardens, 2340 Lorch Ave., Eau Claire.
Cost: $8 per person for a soup meal or $20 for soup and a bowl.
Information: fmpfoodbank.org or 715-835-9415. Tickets are available at the door.
How and when did this event begin?
It started back in 2001. Some people with our organization heard about empty bowls events elsewhere and decided to give the idea a try here.
It turned out to be a good idea, and we’ve been doing it ever since.
The bowls people can purchase are an unusual aspect of this fundraiser. How do they add to this event?
Different groups from across the Chippewa Valley make the bowls we sell each year as part of this event.
We have all different kinds of bowls; a wide range of them.
We have everything from bowls made by young kids to beautiful ceramic bowls made by artists.
Now we have organized bowl-painting parties to make even more bowls. We will have between 2,000 and 2,500 bowls available at this year’s event.
Of course soup is a major part of this event. How has soup making for Empty Bowls evolved through the years?
For the first few years of the event a woman made the soup.
Then, a few years later, five local restaurants — Houligan’s Steak & Seafood Pub, Randy’s Family Restaurant, Eau Claire Golf & Country Club, Bridgewater Restaurant and the former Sweetwaters Restaurant — made soup for the event. This year we have 12 soup donors for our event.
What kinds of soup will be available at this year’s Empty Bowls?
People will be able to choose from a wide variety of soups, ranging from chicken dumpling to vegetable beef to a vegan veggie soup to chili to chicken wild rice.
There should be a soup there to appeal to the tastes of everyone.
What does this fundraiser mean to Feed My People Food Bank?
This is our agency’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Including the proceeds from the event and that from corporate sponsors, we raised just over $80,000 last year and served soup to 2,700 people. This event has a wide reach and benefits 125 agencies and 200 programs. That is all great, but at the same time we are seeing the need keep going up.
— Julian Emerson