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Fill your bowl – and many more – at Empty Bowls fundraiser

Proceeds to help feed Placer County’s hungry
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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An upcoming event combines this community’s love of art, food and giving to raise money for the Placer County Food Bank.

Empty Bowls will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, featuring a wine reception and supper, and a second event takes place Friday, Feb. 3, with a luncheon. Proceeds will be used to obtain and distribute food to the county’s hungry through the food bank’s network of charitable agencies and feeding programs.

One of those agencies is the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet, which saw its busiest month ever last year, serving 1,121 households in August. On Monday, team leader Patricia Jensen took a few minutes out of her busy day to discuss the need for food here.

“In December we served 968 households,” Jensen said. “Eighty-four of those were homeless individuals; 104 were new.”

Empty Bowls, now in its second year, offers a simple meal of pasta, bread and salad. Tickets also include a choice of one of hundreds of ceramic bowls, hand-crafted by artists throughout the foothills.

“The empty bowl is meant to symbolize those in our community who are going without food, whose bowls are empty,” said Mary Towne, marketing and fund development for the food bank. “It’s a reminder that there are people who are hungry in our community.”

Dave Martinez, executive director of the food bank, said about 500 people attended the inaugural event last year and he hopes to see a lot more this year. He added that nearly 40 volunteers have been working to put on the event, which is the food bank’s only event fundraiser. Money raised will go toward several programs at the food bank, including the produce program and backpack program, which distributes bags of juice, healthy snacks, low-sugar cereals and microwaveable meals to eligible students on Fridays to help get them through the weekend.

In addition to artists donating time and skill to the family friendly event, local restaurants will donate the various parts of the Empty Bowls meal. Vannelli Foods of Roseville donates the gourmet pasta, Boudin Bakery provides the bread and All About You Catering will make the salad. Source will serve appetizers Thursday evening and there will be dessert by Nothing Bundt Cakes. Other businesses helping out with Empty Bowls are Brookfields and Paul Martin’s American Bistro. Guitar player Chris Martin will perform, and there will be raffles featuring restaurant and spa gift certificates and more, including a rivet from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Towne said last year’s Empty Bowls raised about $25,000 for the food bank, and the goal this year is to meet and hopefully exceed that number. This food bank serves about 50 nonprofit organizations that distribute food to clients. Those agencies serve, on average, about 48,000 individuals each month. Last year the food bank distributed 6 millions pounds of food, and this year is on track to deliver 7 million pounds, making Empty Bowls more important than ever.

“It’s really critical, because all types of different programs and funding are being cut and eliminated, not only for us but for the agencies that we serve,” Towne said. “The money that we raise from this event will go directly to purchase and distribute food to those agencies that we’re serving.”

The Auburn Interfaith Food Closet buys food at greatly discounted rates, or at cost, from the food bank and outlet grocery stores, and also receives food from the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program through the Placer County Food bank. In the eight years that she’s been volunteering, Jensen said she has seen the need grow and grow.

“Seven or eight years ago we were serving about 400 households, on average, a month, and now we’re serving close to 1,000 every month,” Jensen said.

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com.

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Empty Bowls

When: 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2; 12:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3

Where: Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Drive, Roseville

Cost: $50 for Feb. 2 wine reception and supper; $25 for Friday luncheon

Info and tickets: www.placerfoodbank.org, (916) 783-0481