Local Organizations Have High Hopes for Empty Bowl Fundraiser’s 18th Year

February 13, 2019|

In just a few weeks, one of the area’s biggest fundraisers focused on local hunger will bring together volunteers, the local restaurant community and hundreds of attendees for its 18th anniversary.

The annual Empty Bowl luncheon, which was originally inspired by a teacher’s trip to an Atlanta art conference more than 19 years ago, has become one of the largest and most collaborative fundraisers in Augusta.

It brings in thousands of dollars every year, and the funds are split between Augusta Jewish Community Center and Golden Harvest Food Bank, which feeds hungry families across the CSRA. Golden Harvest covers 14,000 square miles across 30 counties in Georgia and South Carolina and serves around 200,000 individuals every year.

In its first year, Empty Bowl netted between $1,500 and $3,000. Last year, the event raised around $28,000.

The event’s chairperson, Susan Steinberg, hopes to see that figure increase again this year.

“Hoping it runs really smoothly again, and that we increase our net profits,” Steinberg said. “We’ve got some great sponsors.”

Golden Harvest Food Bank, which partners with AJCC to organize the event, works directly with manufacturers and farmers and leverages donations from grocery stores and local businesses. Ann Snyder, director of marketing for Golden Harvest, said that each dollar donated to the organization results in three full meals for those in need.

“It’s a really cool way for a lot of different parts of our community to help with hunger,” Snyder said.

Local businesses, organizations like Master’s Table Soup Kitchen (a partner of Golden Harvest), artists and even grocery store chains have made the fundraiser a successful collaborative effort for years.

The participating restaurants alone will amount to between 50 and 60 this year, Snyder said, including everything from The Bee’s Knees to Chick-Fil-A (the full list hasn’t been made official yet). Steinberg said that figure could be close to 100 once restaurants participating in the silent auction are factored in.

Even politicians and local media personalities (some of them participate as “celebrity servers”) have a part to play.

Students paint ceramic bowls — a staple tradition of the event — that attendees can take home with them. Soups have become the signature dish of the event and are meant to create a soup kitchen-type environment to create awareness about local hunger.

Empty Bowl raises money for the AJCC and Golden Harvest through ticket sales, donations and proceeds from a silent auction that last year consisted of more than 200 items. Vacations have been one of the most popular prizes in years past; last year’s auction included a brewery tour at Boston Beer Company; a visit to Chicago’s Wrigley Field; a cooking trip to Tuscany, Italy; a trip to Nashville, Tenn., for the Country Music Awards; and a Charleston, S.C., excursion.

Empty Bowl will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Legends Club. Pre-sale tickets for adults cost $25 online and will cost $30 at the door on the day of the event. Pre-sale tickets for children ages 2-10 will cost $10 online and $15 at the door.

Event details can be found at emptybowlcsra.org. Volunteer signups are open online.

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