Sandy Spring Friends School



Empty Bowl Project

In 2005, a small group of teachers and parents the brought Empty Bowl Project to Sandy Spring Friends School. The goal of the project is to:

  • Create lasting social change
  • Raise awareness of world hunger
  • Collect money to support programs to feed the hungry
  • Build community

In the 14 years since the SSFS community began the Empty Bowl Project, the School has hosted 7 biennial dinners, raising more than $50,000 to feed the hungry in our area. These efforts have been supported by hundreds of volunteers from our community who have created thousands of beautiful, hand-painted bowls, and local restaurants and volunteer chefs who have provided thousands of servings of soup and bread.

Photo of one of the bowls for Empty Bowl 2018
Photo of one of the bowls for Empty Bowl 2018

Each bowl created for the Empty Bowl dinner has a special story behind it. See the Empty Bowl blog to read some of the wonderful stories accompanying some truly inspiring bowls made by SSFS students, parents, alumni, and friends!

Let Your Lives Speak: Service Through Empty Bowl

Hunger and food insecurity affects all people in the U.S. of all ages and 1 in 4 people face hunger in America. Please join us and support this important community event in some way. For more information, please see the SSFS Empty Bowl Blog and check the weekly newsletter to find out about upcoming bowl-making and glazing sessions. Our biennual dinner was held in 2018. Stay tuned for details about our next Empty Bowl event.

Why and Where do the proceeds from the Empty Bowl go?

When my kids were little, I remember more the problem of finding calm time to give them a good breakfast before the mad rush out the door (homework, gloves and boots in hand) than a difficulty in finding something nutritious to give them. That problem was more likely I hadn’t made it to the grocery store, not that I couldn’t. Though I certainly have had my share of empty bank accounts and mismatched left over specials.

Working and living in affluent Montgomery and Howard counties, I am fortunate to love my job that helps make ends meet. I have rarely, truly, come face to face with hunger. Similarly, many of our children, like the majority in these counties, have not faced or experienced food insecurity. My students are all loved, carefully cared for, and for the most part, the beneficiaries of an affluent segment of society. They might not get breakfast, or they might only have time to eat it on the drive to school, or they might not like their Starbucks breakfast selection, but for the most part, if they come into the classroom breakfast-less, it was not because their pantry was empty along with the bank account, but that they chose not to partake. However, just across the street, around the corner, or hidden under the unprovoked outburst on the playground; hunger is right here. 7.3% in Howard County, 6.3% in Montgomery County, generally assumed to be affluent communities, and 14.4% in Prince George’s County are food insecure. That means that they do not know from where or if their next meal will come at all. Their families have to choose between rent, food, or gas to get to work; scant nutritious meals or insufficient poorer quality meals. Most of these families have two working parents, and are still not making ends meet. 13% of all Americans are food insecure, 13 million of them are children, and 50% of all school children in the United States are food insecure!!!

The future is indeed bleak if our hopes for the future, our children, cannot learn, question, solve, or grow to their full potential. This impacts not just us but our well-fed children as well. Medical and technological innovations and advances may suffer if the potential of the brilliant minds of the future languishes without the availability and nutrition of regular meals.

Many school districts provide breakfast for all their students during class time, so kids are not stigmatized and pulled out of class. Backpacks, similar to those that carry markers and books, are filled with food for weekends for those in need. Many schools have on-site pantries, while others open their cafeterias over the summer and holiday breaks for families to come have meals. There are food banks and food pantries all over the country, 60,000 + of them, and neighborhoods and churches try to fill in the blanks. The Maryland Food Bank, alone, provides 102,000 meals a day! Empty Bowl is just one of many other ways people are coming together to help alleviate the hunger crisis. But all of these measures are just a drop in the bucket. We need to continue to fight, to try, to help, to solve this crisis, all while teaching the next generation to be generous with their time and hearts.

The EB Committee and TORCH has worked to re-evaluate and find a worthy charity to direct whatever funds garnered during our dinner. Upon their research, Feeding America (FA) was again chosen for this year. The Maryland Food Bank, Manna and SOME are all affiliates of FA, but because of their huge size and donation base, FA is a very effective organization, able to do more for less. Feeding American was chosen for its excellent rating, track record and service to administrative cost ratio. All statistics were garnered from Charity Navigator, American Hunger Statistics, Feeding America, and the Maryland Food Bank.

Empty Bowl History

In 1990, the Empty Bowl Project was conceptualized by John Harton, an art teacher from Michigan, as a way to help his students creatively support a food drive. He had his class make ceramic bowls and invited the community to come have a simple dinner, with food donated by local restaurants. From there, the idea was born. Those first diners did not even know that they were going to take home the bowl that they had just used for soup, as a reminder of all the empty bowls that still need filling, every night, around the world.

This concept began a movement and now there are Empty Bowl events held around the world. While each is unique, they share a common purpose and that is to raise awareness about the acute problem of hunger worldwide.