More than 300 colorful, handcrafted ceramic bowls sculpted by local high school students not only served as works of art Wednesday night, but as symbols to fight hunger.
First Annual Empty Bowl Soup Dinner drew dozens of parents and children of all ages throughout the evening who purchased the food-safe soup-filled ceramic bowls. It was all in an effort to raise money for the West Suburban Community Pantry in nearby Woodridge.
Over the course of the school year students from Naperville North ceramic classes handcrafted the bowls for the event. On Wednesday each guest was able to purchase a bowl for ten dollars and dine in the school’s common area while local catering company provided the soup.
Students said they hoped to raise $3,000 to donate to the pantry, which gave away 1.5 million pounds of food in 2011 and feeds more than 4,000 people in DuPage County every month.
“It kind of tells me that all of our talents can be put to use to help others,” said West Suburban Community Pantry’s executive director Barbara Schmith. “Art feeds the soul, and here art is also helping to feed the body.”
Naperville North senior and teacher’s assistance Sarah Leadley put the wheels in motion and brought the idea of the soup dinner to ceramics teacher Shay Gallagher.
Leadley has been volunteering twice a week at West Suburban Community Pantry since her freshman year.
Her first time volunteering at the pantry certainly was an eye-opening experience for a teenager living in Naperville.
“It changed my view of how I think about people and the different problems that are going on in the world,” Leadley said. “In my neighborhood we live next to a golf course and everyone has like three cars or whatever, so it was like looking at a whole different side of where I live.”
Seeing close to 400 people a week come through the pantry, she wanted to help the pantry team-up with the school in order to raise awareness about local hunger.
"In the food pantry in one night, we’ll get 80 to 100 people,” Leadley said. “And they’ll come back once a month, and that’s so much, but no one really knows about it. Everyone thinks because it’s Naperville everyone has everything here.”
Although Leadley put volunteering at the pantry on hold in October due to her job and focusing on graduation, she plans on continuing serving her community and country by joining the U.S. Coast Guard.
Plans call for the Empty Bowl Soup Dinner to be held every year at the high school and many of the students are looking forward to seeing the event grow.
"Maybe next year we will have even more bowls," said senior Amy Meyers. "Maybe we'll have 600 or 1000 and we'll be able to spread some more awareness and help more people."