The Empty Bowls Project

By Tess Malijenovsky

Three hundred forty-five children raised their hands when Steve Deal, Assistant Manager of Stop Hunger Now, asked them if their lives were worth saving. In an effort to raise hunger awareness, students at Riverview Charter School, from Kindergarten to eighth grade, came together Nov. 9 to package 20,000 meals for kids like them in Nicaragua who are suffering from acute starvation.
This year, Riverview partnered with Stop Hunger Now, an international organization based out of Charlotte, N.C., in an effort to actively involve parents and students from all grade levels together in one activity. According to Deal, Stop Hunger Now is a multi-generational program that works with volunteers from age 2 to 90, with the blind and hearing impaired, and with businesses, churches, rotary clubs, schools and other organizations.

Riverview students particpate in The Empty Bowls Project.

Riverview’s commitment to raising $5,000 purchased 20,000 meals worth the food. Together in small teams, the students packaged vitamin packets, soy, dehydrated vegetables and rice into one baggie at a time that can feed six hungry kids abroad.
Students were not only engaged and learning hands-on, but actually having a blast and going wild every time someone ran up to sound the gong, which marked another thousand meals packaged. In the meantime, acute starvation — not just hunger — and its gravity was put a little bit more into perspective for the students. They learned that the United States alone produces enough food to feed every single person in the world four pounds of food everyday, yet more than one billion people are starving; there is no shortage of food, only an issue of getting the food to the people in need because of politics and war climates.
“If kids can eat better, than they can educated better; and if they can educated better, than they can break the cycle of poverty,” said Deal. And so, 345 Riverview students, 65 volunteers, teachers and specialists all worked together side by side to help stop hunger in the world, one meal at a time.
The past three years Riverview has developed its Empty Bowls Project, a hunger awareness service learning project, into its school-wide curriculum during the fall. “We highly recommend [community outreach] and encourage it, but the next step is service learning, which ties community outreach with instruction at a curricular level but also in social and emotional growth,” said Curriculum Leader AnnMarie Bowden.
From kindergartners planting and harvesting a garden to third graders studying colonialism, learning why settlers starved and how they survived by cooperation with the native Americans, to middle schoolers learning how DNA is altered in their science classes because of starvation, every grade’s curricular unit ties back to hunger awareness in some shape or form.
The empty bowls, themselves symbolic to hunger, is the art project Weezy Alcott single-handedly undertakes each year. Every student at Riverview will paint a ceramic bowl that will be stacked in an art display the night of the Empty Bowls Project event. And, because Riverview has no pottery kiln to fire them, Alcott finds kilns outside of the school that she can use to fire all the students’ bowls.
So if you didn’t catch Riverview’s fifth graders downtown earlier this week promoting the cause and event, be sure to come Thursday, Nov. 17, beginning at 6-6:30 p.m., to the Empty Bowls Project Event night. Riverview extends its invitation to the public and hopes the community will come. Students will harvest the vegetables they grew and help prepare a soup with the chef; however, don’t expect large rations. The point is to leave hungry. The Empty Bowls art project will be on display as well as a video of how the project has come together in each grade over the last several weeks. Afterwards, parents and friends can take a tour of their child’s classroom since it is also portfolio night.

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