John Spevak: Empty Bowls event is in true spirit of the season

December 1, 2012 

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas trigger many emotions.

For many, it is anxiety. Will I have time to decorate the house? What presents do I need to buy? Where do we spend the holidays this year?

But there are also emotional Thanksgiving leftovers, which also happen to be the essence of Christmas. Many continue to be thankful, aware they are blessed to have a home, heat, clothing and food.

Food is something we might take for granted. We don't realize the importance of it until we're really hungry.

Most of us don't experience intense hunger. Yes, there are the times between meals when we say we're hungry. But that's not the hunger of those who wake up unsure of where their food will come from that day. Nor is it the hunger of anyone, young or old, who goes to bed with an empty stomach each night.

It's appropriate, then, that the third annual Los Banos Empty Bowls event happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Tuesday event recognizes that many people in our hometown experience hunger on a regular basis.

Maybe they're hungry because they're sick or old. Maybe they're out of work. Maybe their wages barely cover their home's rent. Maybe they don't have a home.

With their Empty Bowls ticket, people interested in fighting hunger can share a meal together, appreciate ceramic art and help ease some of the hunger in their community. On Tuesday at the Ted Falasco Arts Center, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., they can enjoy in hand-crafted bowls tasty home-made soups donated by local restaurants.

Tickets are $12.50 per person for the meal, which includes a variety of soups, as well as rolls and butter. After the meal, each diner takes home one of the ceramic bowls specially made for this event.

Proceeds go to local charities that provide food for the hungry in Los Banos. Tickets are still available and will be sold at the door.

Empty Bowls is sponsored by the Los Banos Rotary Club, the Los Banos Interact Clubs, the Los Banos Junior High School and the Los Banos Arts Center.

For many months, volunteers have been working with Jim Clarke, a ceramics teacher at Los Banos Junior High, to make bowls of different colors and designs. These become a symbol of the event.

Some 500 bowls have been made. After surveying the different kinds of soups available, each person selects the flavor that's most appealing and asks a volunteer to fill the bowl (actually a Styrofoam bowl placed within the ceramic one).

Once the bowl is empty, each person can get a refill of soup, either the same or different flavor. At the end of the meal, everyone takes their artistic bowl home as a reminder of the continuing problem of hunger.

Empty Bowls recognizes that many people around the world, including in this country and in this community, aren't able to fill their bowls, while their hunger persists.

The Los Banos event is part of a loosely organized grass-roots international project to raise awareness of hunger. Throughout the United States and in a dozen other countries, Empty Bowls volunteer groups organize events similar to the one in Los Banos.

The common components are hand-made bowls and home-made soups, with all proceeds going to local organizations that help feed the hungry. The Empty Bowls website (www.empty includes notifications of similar events going on throughout the country.

Other communities having events in the upcoming week include Tacoma, Wash.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Buda, Texas; and Dunkirk, N.Y.

The Los Banos Arts Council donated the use of the Arts Center. The decorations will be minimal. With virtually no overhead, all dollars raised from ticket sales will go directly to local organizations to help feed the hungry.

Anyone wishing to buy tickets before Tuesday's event can contact Toni Moreno at Rooney's Liquors (826-3981) or any other Los Banos Rotarian.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to

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