You can take a bite out of student hunger by visiting the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser Feb. 22 in the exhibit area of the Student Center. The event includes a soup lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with proceeds benefiting Thea’s Pantry on the Worcester State University campus, as well as the Chandler Magnet School Food Pantry.
The cost for unlimited bowls of soup and two raffle tickets is $5 for students, and $10 for faculty, staff, and the public. Tickets for the dessert table are $2.
The Urban Action Institute, which is the outreach and community action arm of the Urban Studies Department, partnered with Chartwell’s for the event to promote hunger awareness and provide resources to students in need.
This year, the menu will have an international flavor with soups and stews that represent different parts of the world, including the Caribbean and Latin America. Area bakeries like Table Talk Pies and the Bean Counter donated desserts for the event.
Raffle tickets, in addition to the two tickets that come with the lunch, are $1 each. “We have a lot of really amazing raffle prizes this year,” Adam Saltsman, associate professor of Urban Studies and director of the Urban Action Institute, said. “I feel like we’ve outdone ourselves.” Prizes include gift cards to Wegman’s and Big Y supermarkets and local restaurants like the Boynton. There are also gift cards for local spas and hair salons, as well as entertainment prizes such as show and sports tickets.
The raffle will take place around 1:45 p.m. but raffle entrants do not need to be present to win a prize.
Though the atmosphere at the event will be lighthearted and fun, it serves a serious purpose. “This event is important because we know from our research that one out of three students at Worcester State are dealing with food insecurity,” Saltsman said. “We know that those numbers are much higher for students of color and students who identify as LGBTQIA+. And we know that GPA is affected by hunger, so student success is linked to students being able to eat.”
In February 2019, the Urban Action Institute and campus partners including student affairs, Enactus, the Urban Studies Club, and a group of dedicated students opened Thea’s Pantry, an on-campus food pantry available to any person with a Worcester State OneCard.
“While Thea’s Pantry has a number of really great resources, this kind of fundraiser can really help them get a more diverse array of foods and personal hygiene items in stock,” Saltsman said.
Chandler Magnet School was included because studies show that one out of 11 children in Massachusetts is hungry. “That’s a disturbing statistic, and exactly the kind of issue we should be rallying around because this is our community, ” he said.
While faculty, staff and the public are invited, the event also has a student-centered focus. “This event is a way for students to have fun, to hang out with their friends and to get a pretty tasty lunch at a low cost,” he said. “And you stand a good chance of winning some exciting prizes, so the whole thing enables them to have a good time and do something good for the community.”
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