Empty Bowl Lunch returns to TPS

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

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The Providence School’s Empty Bowl Lunch ended its two-year COVID hiatus last week with more than 265 handmade bowls with a long line of hungry community members.

Art teacher Liz Spurlock launched Providence’s Empty Bowl Lunch in 2006. Usually, Spurlock has two semesters to prepare for the December event, but not this time. Spurlock said it was an undertaking.

“We have worked around the clock to get this done in one semester. So it’s been a challenge. We unloaded our last kiln this morning,” she said

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Spurlock calls 2022 the program’s “promotion year.” Because of its hiatus, many of her students needed to become more familiar with the program, making it difficult to get everyone on board.

“A lot of students didn’t even help in the classroom because they didn’t know what they know now,” she said.

Seniors participate for the first time as high school students

Monique Coffey and Luke Bailey are seniors. They were two of the few students who were familiar with the event. Before they started serving, they hurriedly got ready with their classmates- each of them tying up their hair and putting on gloves at their stations.

“When it first started, I was in middle school. I used to help with the pottery and everything in sixth grade.” Coffey said.

This time, she helped fix and glaze bowls. Coffey also helped cook all of the food.

“That’s my art,” she said.

Coffey said her favorite part of participating in the Empty Bowl Lunch is giving to people.

“I just love to see people smile,” she said

Coffey is graduating this December and will move to Atlanta to attend Clark Atlanta University for its nursing program.

This year is Bailey’s first time participating. He’ll be graduating in May and attending college to become a therapist. He said he also might join Americorps.

Bailey’s brother went to Providence, so he remembers coming up to grab lunch with one of his brother’s bowls. Bailey said he helped with glazing a few bowls but that he mostly enjoys the social setting of serving and meeting people at the event.

Career Day

Right before lunch started, Providence held a career day for the students. Emergency medical service workers, tattoo artists, NASA employees, and Amazon managers gave presentations to students about their positions.

Each presenter got free lunch with bowls made by the school guidance counselor, Mindy Hershey. Rebekah Green was one presenter. Green graduated from Providence in 2016. She now works as an account manager for Amazon’s janitorial contract.

“It’s an amazing school, even this, like what they’re doing right now and opening up to the community and giving the children time to be expressive,” Green said. “I believe it shows any upcoming artists that not only can they make a living off that- people want to buy the stuff that they have,” Green said Providence’s most significant asset to the students is giving them time to create while offering a well-rounded education.

She stayed after lunch to volunteer with another former student.

Returning visitors

Spurlock said the lunch sees new people every year. But along with them, the school welcomes returning visitors as well.

Sandy Peel is retired and is the wife of the former chair of the Jessamine County Board of Education, Eugene Peel. She attends the Empty Bowl Lunch each year, only missing the year of Mr. Peel’s death.

Every single year, Peel is first in line. Spurlock said there had been a few years when her sister and Peel would rush through the tables to get the first pick of the University of Kentucky-themed bowls.

At this point, Peel has 40 bowls that she’s collected over the years. As she went through the line, adding a fourth bowl to her stack of three.

“They spark joy,” Peel said

Superintendent Matt Moore visited for lunch. He said he comes to the event every year and will probably be in attendance even after retirement. “It is always an exciting time of the year to get to see all of the artwork that our students do and to have a good meal and fellowship when we’re all together,” Moore said.

Where will the proceeds go?

Along with Spurlock and her students, previous students, art teacher Sarah Prewitt and other teachers helped craft the bowls. The bowls were sold with lunch for $12 each. Half of the proceeds will go back into the program to fund the purchase of supplies the following year. Spurlock will give the other half back to the community to Jessamine County families in need.

An hour and a half into the event, there were murmurs among students that they were nearly out of food. The event started at 11 a.m., but the hour-long rush made for no leftovers. Spurlock was ecstatic.

“You hope, and you build it and hope they come, and they came this year, so I’m ecstatic,” she said.

This year, the program raised $3,600. The goal was $3,000.

Spurlock said they have yet to choose how to give half of the money, but if you need holiday meal help or assistance with food or rent, contact The Providence School to apply.