Donnalyn Karpeles spent all year crafting 212 handmade ceramic bowls that she donated to the 25th Santa Barbara Empty Bowls benefit for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
The fundraiser was started in 1997 by ceramics artist and educator Danyel Dean, according to event organizers. Karpeles said she has attended every year.
The Nov. 13 event drew approximately 800 people, with around 50 volunteers, to foodbank headquarters at 4554 Hollister Ave. The fundraising goal was $120,000, according to organizers.
Proceeds from the benefit help the foodbank provide groceries and nutrition education to low-income citizens throughout the county.
This is the second year the fundraiser has operated outside, according to Judith Smith-Meyer, the nonprofit organization’s senior communications manager.
Traditionally, attendees would take a bowl made by a local artisan, and fill it up with soup. Last year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people still picked up a bowl but they placed it in a bag and took it with them along with a sealed container of soup to go.
This year’s event included a raffle, coffee and treats from United States of Espresso and Outdoor Pottery Market Place, and soup courtesy of the nonprofit Food From the Heart.
Handmade ceramic bowls won’t stay empty for long at Sunday’s Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. (Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo)
A new aspect of Empty Bowls this year was a silent auction featuring pottery from local artisans.
According to Smith-Meyer. during the first three months of the coronavirus crisis, the foodbank served 142,000 people in the county. This year, the foodbank had its busiest quarter since the beginning of the pandemic, serving 111,000 people during the period of July through September.
Smith-Meyer blamed inflation.
“Inflation is just killing people,” she said. “If you work a minimum wage job, you’ve got to work an hour to buy two gallons of gas and that barely gets you to work, so it’s really hitting people.”
Smith-Meyer said food is the area in which people tend to “squeeze” their budget.
“You have to pay your utilities or your heat goes off, or you lose your phone service or whatever,” she said. “But food, you can skip a meal, you can feed your kids instant ramen, and that’s where people will be squeezed because they have the flexibility.
“But it’s also so critical to help … and being able to get through hard times.”
More than 800 Empty Bowls guests browse empty bowls before making their selection and leaving with a container of soup from Food From the Heart. (Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo)
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte both volunteered at Sunday’s Empty Bowls.
Carbajal said he he didn’t realize it while growing up, but he and his family experienced food insecurity.
“I can’t say enough about the foodbank and the good work they do, and why it’s so important for our community to acknowledge the good work they do,” he said. “But not just acknowledge it, to support them as much as we can. Because not everybody is as fortunate as many of us in this county.”