By: Dale King Contributing Writer
The Palm Beach County Food Bank recently served a simple meal of soup, bread, cookie and water – with a side dish of wisdom – to about 1,000 people gathered in the Old School Square Pavilion in downtown Delray Beach.
The crowd not only devoured nearly three dozen varieties of gourmet soups and rustic breads created by the Old School Bakery, but also gobbled up the accompanying message – “eat simple so others can simply eat.”
The point of the soup meal, served outdoors in cardboard containers on a warm autumn day, was to give diners an opportunity to feel the hunger that homeless and other needy people must endure every day.
So, while most folks left the table with a minor hunger tug in the tummy, they were satisfied they had made a contribution to the cause of helping alleviate hunger in the county.
Patty Jones, chair of Delray Beach event, said the gathering would likely net about $100,000 to benefit the Food Bank.
Karen Erren, executive director of the Palm Beach County Food Bank, said the organization sponsors two Empty Bowl events each year. One took place Dec. 2 in Delray Beach, the other is planned for Feb. 8 at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach.
Officials said Empty Bowls is a national grassroots event that raises money for hunger relief. Diners paid $25 for advance tickets, $30 at the gate to enjoy one of the many soups prepared by gourmet chefs.
Each soup consumer received a hand-crafted bowl, made by local students, to take home as a powerful reminder of all the empty bowls in the community, said Erren.
Jones remarked at the massive crowd that packed the pavilion. “We got the word out on Facebook, through all the schools and on the Old School Square website,” she noted.
“Delray Beach has taken such ownership of this project,” Erren added.
She noted that the PBC Food Bank provides food for close to 200,000 people by way of partner organizations. Boca Helping Hands in Boca Raton receives some of its sustenance from the Food Bank as does the Caring Kitchen in Delray Beach, part of the county’s CROS ministries.
Of the near 200,000 people helped by the Food Bank, said Erren, more than 60,000 are children, and another 60,000-plus are senior citizens. All recipients of food assistance “are hard-working citizens.”
Not only did a raft of volunteers help serve the soup, students contributed in advance of the event. American Heritage School in Delray Beach conducted a food drive and parents of students there purchased the hand-made bowls for $25 each, raising $2,000 for the cause.
The Food Bank procures about 5 million pounds of food annually from grocery stores, restaurants, food distributors, wholesalers and other sources and provides it to more than 200 local community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens and residential housing programs.
Palm Beach County Food Bank programs reach families, school children and seniors, and connect those in need to available benefits and resources.
Delray Beach is already preparing for next year’s Empty Bowl event. Co-chairs have been chosen for 2019 – Marla Garchik and Shelley Menin.
For more information, visit pbcfoodbank.org or call 561-670-2518.