Filling empty bowls: As Mount Si Food Bank sees record demand, grassroots benefit could help meet needs | Photo gallery

Admiring a clay bowl made for the first-ever Mount Si Food Bank benefit night, Ruth Huschle, art teacher at Snoqualmie Middle School, says students are awake to local needs.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Admiring a clay bowl made for the first-ever Mount Si Food Bank benefit night, Ruth Huschle, art teacher at Snoqualmie Middle School, says students are awake to local needs.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Isaiha Medford rubs his hands together and sits back to take a look at his work: three soon-to-be-finished clay sculptures made especially for Empty Bowls, an upcoming benefit dinner helping the Mount Si Food Bank.

“I’m going to make three, because I want to donate two and keep one,” the middle school student explains. “It’s helping the needy and the poor people to feed their children.”

With that understanding, Medford represents at least one goal accomplished by this food bank project: Raising awareness of hunger in the Valley.

Isaiha is working at Ruth Huschle’s art classroom at Snoqualmie Middle School, where there is some serious collaboration going on. A class of sixth graders, at least 20 of them, are elbow deep in clay, and intent on making their visions take shape, not just for themselves, but for their community.

The North Bend-based food bank serves an average of 390 families each week, and had a record of more than 400 during the holidays, Director Heidi Dukich said. About 300 of the people served are children, just like the artists making these creations for Empty Bowls.

“What I love about this project is it incorporates an educational component, for students and for the community to really learn about hunger,” said Dukich.

Empty Bowls ( is a decade-old movement that began in Michigan, when Detroit art teacher John Hartom asked his students to make clay bowls as a fund-raiser for the hungry. The students created 120 bowls, and guests were asked to choose their favorites, which the students then filled with soup. Ticket proceeds were donated to a local hunger-fighting organization, and, at the end of the meal, the guests were asked to keep the bowls as mementos.

Since that October 1990 event, the program has spread across the nation and to several countries. Next month, it comes to North Bend.

Students and staff at Snoqualmie Middle School, along with art students at Twin Falls and Chief Kanim Middle Schools and Mount Si High School, are working on bowls for the food bank’s first Empty Bowls dinner, set for 4 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Si View Community Center. Admission is $20 per person, and guests will, at least symbolically, share the experience of food bank clients, Dukich said. They will stand in line, like the food bank clients do, and be served “a simple meal of soup and bread.”

A silent auction and live music are also planned for the evening, but most importantly, “People are going to bring their bowls home with them as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.”

Dukich, always looking for new ways to support the food bank and involve the community, felt that Empty Bowls really matched the goals of the food bank, feeding the hungry, and educating and involving the community. The event, she thought, would be a fun way to gather the community, and a different approach to meeting needs.

“What’s important for us to do as community is look for other ways to find resources,” she said. “If we’re only relying on federal or state or municipal funding, we’re not being prudent.”

Last fall, she pitched Empty Bowls to Huschle, who also loved the concept.

“It’s important for the kids to learn at a young age that this is a real issue. It isn’t just ‘oh, that’s only happening in the city,’” Huschle said.

When she introduced the project to her students, she said, “They were excited.” Although they may not have known about the food bank or how many people live with hunger each day, she said they knew what their goal was.

“They kind of said ‘OK, we get it, this is going to be a fundraiser, and we’re going to be making these as gifts,’” Huschle said.

Since clay is part of her regular curriculum every year, this is still a school project, she added. Students have to meet requirements for texture and workmanship on both of their bowls—one to keep and one to donate. Huschle has also asked them to write about the project, who is affected by hunger, and what they want their bowls to represent.

“It’s a curricular project that is so directly tied to the foundational piece of a fundraiser,” Huschle explained. “Because without the kids having that idea, the spirit of why they’re doing it, it’s really just a clay project.”

“Everybody in the community benefits,” added Dukich. “It’s our responsibility to take care of each other.”

Above, Katryna Shaw and Isaiha Medford concentrate on the bowls they are making in art class, and plan to donate to the the Empty Bowls project for the Mount Si Food Bank next month.

Below, Shaw takes a close look at her creation.

Above, Volunteers with I-90 Community Church at Preston, Jane Job, Michele Laupmanis, Shea Harris, Stacey Chellis and Joanie Kelley offer food at the Mount Si Food Bank.

Below, Volunteer Iris Giulian of North Bend goofs while sorting strawberries at the Mount Si Food Bank during distribution, Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Above, Margy Corder hauls in bags of produce from a morning food delivery at Mount Si Food Bank.

Below, ready to offer food to local needy families, Cynthia Carter, Becky Steidle, Mar Lydon, BJ LeBlanc, Ginger Heikkinen and Ya-Fwei Davis Davis, volunteers with Our Lady of Sorrow Church, help at the Mount Si Food Bank. Some of these women have volunteered at the food bank for decades.







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