Marlton Middle students sculpt bowls, cook soup for “Empty Bowls” charity fundraiser

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Empty bowls are coming to Marlton Middle School.

No, students aren’t going hungry, they’ve actually been hard at work making soup and sculpting bowls in preparation for the school’s first-ever “Empty Bowls” fundraiser on Dec. 19.

“Empty Bowls” is an international charity project that aims to fight world hunger by having artisans sculpt bowls, fill them with food and then feed guests at fundraising events.

After the events, those who dined get to keep their empty bowl as a reminder of those still with empty bowls throughout the world.

Marlton Middle School consumer science teacher Joanne Wiest said she heard about other groups and schools participating in the project and suggested the idea for her “Cooking for a Cause” class that takes place this time each year.

Funds raised at the Dec. 19 “Empty Bowls” event will go to the Food Bank of South Jersey, as Wiest said her students often don’t know that even in America there are people who don’t have enough to eat.

“There are people in the United States that need help, and the fact that they live in Marlton, the kids don’t get to see that too much,” Wiest said.

While holding an “Empty Bowls” fundraiser is new to Wiest’s students, this year is also different because they’ll have the help of teacher Kate Sampson and the students in her sculpting class who have been hard at work sculpting the many soup bowls needed for the project.

According to Wiest, she estimates 14 gallons of soup and more than 140 bowls are necessary to feed the students from both classes, the one guest each student gets to invite to the Dec. 19 fundraiser and other special guests such as administrative officials.

“We made a couple extra just to be sure in case there were any explosions in the kiln, which happens, and just in case anyone shows up that we weren’t expecting because you never know,” Sampson said.

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Wiest and Sampson said their eighth-grade students have really shown an interest in the project because they can see the results of their work as it happens, which hopefully stays with them beyond the classroom.

“Like with anything when you’re teaching, hopefully you can make just some small impact on them, and maybe their family decides to donate a turkey for Thanksgiving or give at a soup kitchen for Christmas,” Wiest said.

In addition to the students creating bowls, Sampson has had the chance to help make some as well, which she said was another added benefit of the fundraiser, as opposed to just assigning the work as normal.

“It’s kind of been like a collaborative effort between the students and I, which is nice, because I don’t always get to make the art, too,” she said.

One of Sampson’s students, Joseph Davis, said it was nice to help people by doing something as fun as sculpting bowls.

“It’s nice to help people out,” Joseph said. “It just feels good.”

One of Wiest’s students, Ryan Stango, said he and his friend Liv decided to take all their elective classes together, and said the “Cooking for a Cause” class seemed interesting to them and they were excited for the upcoming fundraiser.

“I think it’s great that we’re not just being greedy and eating all of it and we’re raising money for people who need it,” Ryan said. “It’s like a win-win situation.”