TPS Empty Bowl Lunch is back from COVID hiatus

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

COVID paused the Providence School’s (TPS) Empty Bowl Lunch tradition for two years. Art teacher Liz Spurlock has been working to catch up since August to have the handmade bowls ready to sell for the event’s return.

Jessamine County’s alternative school has hosted the event since 2007. Spurlock describes the previous years as a hit, with frenzied parents and family of staff forming a line 30 minutes early to buy the bowl that sparked their interest.

In previous years, students would help create bowls, serving bowls, and plates on a wheel to design, glaze and take to the kiln. Then, the students sold them. Half of the proceeds go back into the program to fund it the following year, and the other half goes toward local families in need.

Email newsletter signup

“The purpose of it is to teach our kids how to give back to the community. They’re usually on the receiving end of things, our school is, so I want to teach them how to give back and because of so many people with food insecurities, we knew it was the right thing to do,” Spurlock said.

But, bringing this event back after its pandemic-induced hiatus has proved difficult.

“It’s grown each year, and we’ve gotten better. What the struggle is this year, and continues to be this year, is the struggle to get kids motivated to do something of this massiveness. Because usually, we have a whole year to make the bowls, and we didn’t. We started in August. And now we are like Santa’s workshop around the clock.” Spurlock said.

There are no students left at the school who participated in the program before COVID. This lack of familiarity made it hard to motivate students to participate, especially with the short time available to craft 200 bowls.

At this point, two classes of students are preparing for the event. Spurlock said that half of her students are all in, and half need a bit more guidance, but all of the students are now a moving part of the process.

“There are a few students who help me throw the bowls, so we make the bowls on the potter’s wheel. And then, there are just the kids who come in and put the designs on the bowls.” Spurlock said, “If they don’t have a steady hand to do the intricate work, they can do the base coats, or they can learn how to load the kiln. It’s a community. No one owns a bowl. We all have our hands on it. We all have a job.”

The program’s funds have been depleted from no income for the last two years and having to replace inoperative pottery wheels and a printer. Spurlock credits Kentucky Mudworks offering discounts as the reason she’s been able to afford the program’s revival.

Although the current goal is 200 bowls, Spurlock said she would like to hit 300: “The more money we get, the more supplies we can get. We can restock. Because we really are depleted.”

Each bowl will cost $12. The bowls are first come, first serve and come with the option of chili or vegetarian potato soup, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a pimento sandwich, and a homemade cookie from TPS faculty, as well as a drink.

Doors will open at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, December 8, at 200 Computrex Drive, and the event will end at 1 p.m.

“Being the alternative school, we’re the school for where the bad kids go. We are not, but that’s how the public sees us, so every time I can have the opportunity to spotlight our kids in a positive light, I do. Our kids may have made some bad choices and decisions or the large classrooms at the other schools being 30-40 kids, didn’t work for them. That’s the only difference.” Spurlock said.

Spurlock intends for this tradition to change some of the biases against these students.

“The community… Some, I would say most, know us as the school for the bad kids, and that’s just not the truth. They’re children. This is coming from adults who need to come visit us and see who we are and see what we’re about, and once they do and watch these supposed bad kids serve them lunch and make these bowls and say ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, sir.’ they realize that what they heard about us is not true. So that’s one of the main reasons, but they get to show their talents and their glories, and they’re giving back.”