Experience with Hunger Drives Upcoming Macalester Empty Bowls Event

Empty bowls banner

March 22, 2017 By: JT Pinther Category: Events

Driven by their personal connections to the issue of hunger, student Phuc Nguyen, staff member Katie Witzig and professor Summer Hills-Bonczyk are teaming up at Macalester College for their Gary Erickson Empty Bowls Fundraiser. This event serves soup in handmade bowls attendees can keep for a suggested donation, proceeds that directly benefit Second Harvest Heartland.

bowls collage

There’s a lot of thought Phuc, Katie and Summer put into the event. Last year, Macalester students, staff and faculty handmade 300 ceramic bowls, and they are expecting a similar amount this year. They are coordinating with student musicians to play at the event, having food justice student organizations make gallons of soup and more. This event is largely student-driven.

Phuc, Katie and Summer are taking the reins this year for the fundraiser on March 26, 2017 after former Macalester Arts Professor Gary Erickson passed away unexpectedly last May. The three said they are coordinating Empty Bowls in his memory, wanting to keep the momentum of this community building event. Phuc, Katie and Summer have other connections to hunger as well, which motivate them to help in the fight to end hunger.

Phuc’s connection to hunger started with her grandparents who are farmers in Vietnam. In the rural area they’re living, they have flooding at times, which can severely damage their crops. “There’s always some period in the year where food is really scarce,” Phuc said.

Summer used to work as a chef, and healthy food has always been really important to her. “When I discovered the rates of hunger in this country, that was really shocking to me,” Summer said. “It’s not just access to food; it’s access to healthy food.”

For Katie, food has always been a key part of her life. She grew up with gardens and her sister is a farmer. “Food justice is incredibly important to me,” Katie said. “Students have to make decisions about where their money goes, and it can’t always go to fresh food.”

The fact this event is made possible by students brings to the surface the pressing issue of hunger for young people. Feeding America found in their Hunger in America 2014 study that 10 percent of adults food banks like Second Harvest Heartland serve are actually students.

Yun Jae, a junior at Macalester, has been touched by food insecurity. “I think it’s a total misconception that students don’t experience hunger because they pay to go to college,” Yun said. “I am extra sensitive about keeping and managing my budget. The only possible source of expenditure now is rent (which is constant and expected) and food (not constant and unexpected).”

“I am less stressed out about food during the school season because of campus events, but school schedule and budget constraint do make it harder for us students to get fed properly,” Yun Jae said.

yun jae empty bowls

Macalester invites the community to join them on March 26, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a meal with a suggested donation of $10. With the handmade bowl you can take with you, Katie said, “You can take away a reminder that someone’s bowl is empty.”

For an up-to-date list of other events that benefit Second Harvest Heartland, take a look at our calendar.


Note: Empty Bowls is an international fundraiser that raises money and awareness in the fight to end hunger. There are several chapters in the Twin Cities alone, and countless more across the globe. The proceeds are then donated to a hunger relief organization of the organizer’s choice. Macalester has supported Second Harvest Heartland all three years.


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