Second Graders Help Feed the Hungry in our Community through the
EMPTY BOWLS PROJECT
What is the 2nd Grade Empty Bowls Project?
A few years ago, Principal Rebecca Gensel was awarded an educator’s grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation . With this grant, Ms. Gensel was able to travel to Italy to pursue her dream to study ceramics with a master potter. She brought the skills she learned back home and used them to start the 2nd Grade Empty Bowls Project at Whiton Elementary School. The Empty Bowls Project is an international project whose goals are, “to raise money to help organizations fight hunger, to raise awareness about the issues of hunger and food security, and to help bring about an attitude that will not allow hunger to exist”.
Our Empty Bowls Project begins with Ms. Gensel visiting each 2nd grade class to discuss the issues of food insecurity that exist in our community. Because most of the families in Branchburg are fortunate to have enough to eat, the idea of children not having sufficient nourishment is foreign to most students. When asked what they would do when their refrigerator is empty and they are hungry, the children suggest checking the pantry, the extra refrigerator in the garage and the food storage areas in their basements. It comes as a surprise to many of the students that other people do not have access to the same amount of food that they do. Through these conversations, the children develop an awareness that there are families in our area and around the world who do not have enough food to eat. This awareness inspires the children to want to do something to help others.
So what can a second grader do to fight hunger? At Whiton, Mrs. Atwell, the Art teacher, assists the children in creating a very special pottery bowl. The bowls are fired in the kiln, glazed, and fired again. The students’ bowls are then displayed at a special evening for second grade families. Parents are invited to “buy” their child’s bowl by making a donation to the Food Bank Network of Somerset County. Additionally, the families bring a box of “kid-friendly” macaroni and cheese that is also donated to the food bank. The students and their families are asked to use their bowl as a reminder that no one’s bowl should ever be empty.
Inspired by the second graders’ generosity and willingness to help, Mrs. Atwood works with Whiton’s staff and they also makes bowls. The staff bowls are raffled off to the students and their families to raise additional money for the Food Bank Network of Somerset County. Between the donations to “buy” the second graders’ bowl and the staff raffle, Whiton’s 2nd grade class has successfully donated about $3,000 each year to the Food Network. This contribution is truly worth celebrating, so that is what we do!
On the night of the Empty Bowls Project, the students take the bowls that they made to the cafeteria where they, and their families, are treated to ice cream. At the end of the evening, they take their bowls home, and perhaps a bowl crafted by one of their teachers, as a lasting reminder of their responsibility to help make sure that no child’s bowl is left empty.