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Empty Bowls

Partnership draws attention to food insecurity during Homelessness Awareness Week

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 10, 2017) — The 75 empty ceramic bowls spread across a table were symbolic to most of those attending a fundraiser at Kennesaw State on Nov. 8, but not to Kennedy O’Brien, an integrative studies major. Having skipped meals almost daily without choice, she was intimately aware of the issues of hunger, food insecurity and homelessness, which the first “Empty Bowls” event at Kennesaw State was designed to highlight.

“There is plenty of food. It's just not getting to the right areas,” she said. “Nearly 90,000 people in Cobb County are living food insecure, yet Americans waste 40 percent of the food we buy.”

As part of “Empty Bowls,” an international grassroots movement, members of the Kennesaw State University campus community selected and purchased one of the handcrafted bowls at the fundraiser that was part of University's 10th annual Homelessness Awareness Week (HAW).

Empty Bowls

In addition to Empty Bowls, the 2017 HAW includes a candlelight vigil on Friday on the Marietta campus, a sleep-out challenge for students to experience the plight of homelessness and a canned food drive at the KSU football game on Saturday.

Empty Bowls brought together the KSU Mudslingers, a student ceramics club, to create the bowls, and University Dining to prepare soup for attendees. The event was coordinated by the Office of Community Engagement

“The students put their hands and their hearts into making the bowls,” said Marcy Stidum, founding director of KSU's Campus Awareness Resource and Empowerment (CARE) Services, which offers support to Kennesaw State students who have experienced homelessness, food insecurity and/or the foster care system.

Empty Bowls is just one of the ways that CARE Services has partnered with groups on campus and in the community to raise awareness. Kroger, United Way and the Cobb Collaborative have also joined together with KSU CARE to promote and support the University’s Homelessness Awareness Week activities and the work of KSU CARE. 

“We are always looking for unique ways to partner with organizations,” Stidum said. CARE Services works with nearly 20 organizations as community partners throughout the year.

Throwing Bowls

Created from reclaimed clay, each of the ceramic masterpieces crafted by the KSU Mudslingers was molded by hand on the pottery wheel, called "throwing bowls," and then trimmed, painted and fired in a kiln before making its way to the Empty Bowls event.

“This is the first time that Kennesaw State has participated in the Empty Bowls project, a nationwide movement among the arts community,” explained Jeff Campana, assistant professor of art in KSU's College of the Arts.

The student organization, open to art majors and non-majors alike, involves all skill levels and gives students a chance to make art.

“No other opportunity on campus allows a diverse group to come together to share a common passion for clay and having fun,” said Hope Limyansky, co-president of KSU Mudslingers.

Reducing Food Waste

To fill the Empty Bowls, University Dining prepared the noon meal using a bumper crop of 200 pounds of tomatoes from the hydroponics greenhouse at the University’s Hickory Grove Farm.

Executive Chef Brian Jones roasted the tomatoes, dried the leaves and ground them to garnish the soup, bringing a more garden-like flavor to the tomato-basil soup. Jones crafted the soup to utilize fresh foods and minimize waste.

Empty Bowls

By participating in the Empty Bowls project, University Dining sought to bring awareness not only to issues of food insecurity and homelessness, but also to food waste and access to food. The event raised more than $1,800 for KSU CARE Services.

Food Pantry Expansion

Last year, KSU CARE Services provided food from its two food pantries – one on each campus – for almost 200 students dealing with food insecurity.

“We may not realize how important food is, but students come by our pantries every day,” said Stidum. Since founded in 2011, CARE Services has served or benefitted almost 550 students dealing with food insecurity and homelessness.

A $12,500 donation from Kroger on Nov. 8 also will allow KSU CARE Services to fund a walk-in food pantry on the Kennesaw Campus.

Kroger - KSU CARE

“Normally, we just hand students a bag of food from the pantry,” Stidum said. “But when students can walk in and choose foods that they like, it is empowering for them.”

Kroger’s donation to the University and CARE Services was a perfect match, according to Felix Turner, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Atlanta.

“Kroger was looking for different ways to partner with educational organizations in the fight against food insecurity and hunger,” said Turner. “KSU CARE and the food pantry is right in line with our goals.” 

The company already has a plan to end hunger and waste by 2025, he added.

A Week of Awareness

As part of HAW’s closing ceremonies tonight, Cobb Collaborative and CARE Services will jointly present a candlelight vigil and memorial service at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10 at the Marietta Campus to honor those who have died while homeless in Cobb County.

The event is the fourth year for the Cobb Collaborative partnership.

Homelessness Awareness

KSU students have been encouraged to get involved and see through the eyes of someone struggling with homelessness as part of the weeklong activities.

Students who accept the final HAW Sleep Out Challenge at the Marietta Campus on Friday, will stay overnight in a simulated Red Cross shelter, in their cars or outside on the ground to further understand the plight of homelessness.

Attendees to Kennesaw State's football game on Saturday are also encouraged to “Hoot Out Hunger” and bring a canned item for donation to the University's food pantries. Any Kroger-brand item donated will be matched by the local Kroger store in Kennesaw.

– Tiffany Capuano

Photos by David Caselli; Video by Paul Floeckher

Submitted photo by Ashley Schenck


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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