Empty Bowls to be drive-thru on Feb. 26

The 24th Annual Empty Bowls soup-and-chili fundraiser for area food banks will once again feature a drive-thru format at Donner Center as it was last year.

The event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 26 with ticket prices and other details to be announced soon.

Organizers hope to raise more than $20,000 this year and make 500 meals. Last year’s gathering raised more than $20,300 with 400 meals served.

“Unfortunately, the situation over the need is even greater this year,” said Richard Boyce, who is spearheading the fundraising element.

He said Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana estimates showing that there are 12,700 food-deprived residents in Bartholomew County — and 4,725 of those are children.

Empty Bowls features a variety of volunteers making soups, chilis, breads and desserts to be sold to diners. Plus, local potters and other artisans make creative, homemade, take-home bowls sold with many of the meals. The in-person event also has included a wide range of live entertainment.

Because the drive-thru format must be more streamlined, Boyce said four kinds of soup instead of the usual wide array are expected to be available, including a vegan choice.

The six food pantries and shelters that will receive the proceeds are Love Chapel, Horizon House homeless shelter, Community Center of Hope, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Columbus Salvation Army and Thrive Alliance.

Love Chapel,the largest pantry in the county, distributed 1.5 million pounds of food to individuals and families in 2021. And its leaders still see the need increasing amid the pandemic and job losses.

Through the years, Empty Bowls locally has raised more than $200,000 total, according to organizers. Local artist Robert Pulley launched the event, a spinoff of a national push to fight hunger, via the Columbus Peace Fellowship. Some years, such as in 2011, more than 1,000 people have attended.

Five hundred people attended the last in-person gathering in 2020, which was one of the larger crowds of the past few years.