Empty Bowl Celebrates 25th Year of Fighting Hunger and Homelessness

By Caitlin Burns | November 28, 2018

Over 1,000 colorful bowls of all shapes and sizes filled the Dining Room of Grey Towers Castle on Nov. 12 during the 25th annual Empty Bowl Benefit Dinner, hosted by Arcadia University’s Community and Civic Engagement Center (CCEC).

In 25 years, CCEC has raised approximately $155,000 to benefit regional, national and international organizations fighting hunger and homelessness. This year, CCEC raised $10,100, which was split between Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, a local agency that provides temporary shelter and food to homeless families, and Rise Against Hunger, an international program which provides crisis response, nutritious meals, and empowerment initiatives to those affected by natural disasters and those in impoverished areas.

“Empty Bowl is a good way to get the word out about different organizations that have a real impact in the community,” said Nicole Mueller ’19, event student coordinator. “There’s such a wide attendance– people of all ages and backgrounds– you’ve got an opportunity to educate the community about making well-thought donations.”

One of the main messages of this event is to encourage educated donations. As Cindy Rubino, CCEC Coordinator, noted, in times of tragedy people are generous, but they don’t always know where their money might be most valued. So, Empty Bowl takes the opportunity to provide materials about how to go about researching and evaluating an organization before donating.

“I love this whole event– it’s such a good resource,” said Vicki Fella-Pleier ’86, who has attended the event for 23 of the 25 years. “I think it’s a wonderful way to support those who are underprivileged.”

Since 1993, Empty Bowl has gone from a campus event for 40 people to a celebration of community welcoming 700 people this year. Originally started by Student Government Organization in the faculty dining hall with homemade soups and styrofoam bowls, the event now brings in donations from throughout the area, including soups and bread from 33 restaurants and bakeries and handmade bowls from 14 schools, organizations, and businesses, as well as members of the Arcadia community.

Businesses that donated food include Allways Cafe, Anne’s Kitchen Table, Austrian Village Bar and Restaurant, Baker Street Cafe, Bredenbeck’s Bakery, Brick House Tavern, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chef Vargas, Chestnut Grill and Sidewalk Cafe, CinCin, Corner Bakery Cafe, Daryl’s Pastries, Elcy’s Cafe, Fill-a-Bagel, Fresh Market, Glenside Pub, Giant food stores, Halligan’s Pub, Iron Hill Brewery in Chestnut Hill and North Wales, Joey Tate’s, La Pergola, Night Kitchen Bakery, O’Neill’s Food Market, Phil’s Tavern, Pita Pocket Eatery, Rocky’s Deli Style Restaurant, Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s, Velvet Sky Bakery, Weinrich’s Bakery, and Zake’s Cafe.

“The future of Empty Bowl is really unlimit,” said Christine Friis ’12, who used her student coordinator experience with Empty Bowl to pursue a career with Operation Homefront, whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families by providing financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing programs, caregiver support services, and recurring family support programs. “It’s grown every year, so to celebrate 25 years is magnificent. I think it only has upward to go as an opportunity to continue serving the hungry and homeless in the Philadelphia area.”