Our Story

Sunday, October, 20, 2019 will mark the 20th Annual Empty Bowls/Caring Hearts Dinner Event in Thunder Bay.  The doors to the Moose Hall on Fort William Road open at 4pm and with 350 guests expected, the hall will be flooded with attendees eagerly anticipating a night of sharing, caring, fellowship and hope.  All proceeds from the event go to support the efforts of Shelter House and The Thunder Bay Food Bank.  In Thunder Bay alone the Empty Bowls mission has raised approximately $300 000.00 to help feed those in our community who need food.

The origin of the Empty Bowls event dates back to 1990 when a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students address a challenge. They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a local food drive. What evolved was the idea of a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraiser dinner. Since then, many variations of the original Empty Bowls event have taken flight annually in North America and around the world.  To date millions of dollars have been raised toward the common goal of combating hunger.

The first Empty Bowls dinner event in Thunder Bay was held in 2000, which was spearheaded with the combined efforts of well known Thunder Bay potters, Alan Moon and Fritz Lehmberg together with Lakehead Unitarian Fellowship member, Pyteke Blaauw. This successful annual dinner event has grown over the years and has evolved to include information displays by partner organizations, a silent celebrity bowls auction, various raffles, and live entertainment.  It is the combined spirit and commitment of caring community volunteers that make this inspirational event possible and the success it is today.

The dinner menu is homemade fare, prepared and donated by local chefs, restaurants and bakeries.  It is a simple meal of soup, bread, and dessert, a symbolic gesture of a “poverty meal” representing the focus and inspiration for the event. It is hoped that the evening will raise awareness and cultivate an attitude that will extinguish poverty and hunger.

Food scarcity means not just a scarcity of sustenance and nourishment, but a scarcity of the life affirming joys that good food provides. The dinner and meal is a reminder to guests to never take food for granted, but to celebrate and share the gifts we have with one another.

With the purchase of a $35.00 dinner ticket and a donation of a canned food item, attendees are able to select a pottery bowl, handcrafted by local potters including community potters and those from the Thunder Bay Potters’ Guild.  The bowl serves as a keepsake from the night’s event, a lasting reminder about the poverty and hunger individuals face daily, inspiring guests to direct their efforts to help fill the empty bowls in our community and around the world.