The annual event, which benefits the United Food Bank of Plant City, is this weekend.
The annual Plant City Empty Bowls Project is returning this weekend and the community is invited to enjoy a hot cup of soup while simultaneously giving back to the United Food Bank.
Every year, downtown is flooded with patrons who spend their lunch breaks enjoying a variety of homemade soups, listening to live music, selecting bowls crafted by local students and bidding on unique items. This year’s event is from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum, 102 N. Palmer St.
“This is one of the main fundraisers the food bank has and it’s important to get the community involved,” Silvia Dodson, UFB Board Member/Empty Bowls Team Member, said. “We have Celebrity Chef, which is a big ticket item every year, and then we have this, which is just a small expense for the community to help the food bank with our mission.”
Tickets are $10 and the entire donation goes to the food bank. Before the event even begins, the sidewalks will be filled with supporters of the food bank during the Fork Ran Away With The Spoon 5K, which starts at 7 a.m. the same day. Runners must register by Nov. 13 to join. All proceeds from the race will also go to the United Food Bank of Plant City.
While most people come to enjoy one of the 39 different soups available, others participate for the one-of-a-kind gift every ticket holder receives. Those who purchase a ticket also get a handcrafted clay bowl made by a local student. It’s a reminder of all of the bowls in the community that remain empty, a heavy reminder that hunger is at many of our neighbor’s doorsteps.
Local schools always partner with the food bank for the event. Dodson said that while the teachers and students had to adapt to the COVID-19 protocols, a total of 19 Hillsborough County public schools signed up this year. The students got to form the bowls by hand and decorate them themselves, thus no two bowls are alike.
Obviously with 2020 being a year like no other, certain elements of the event have changed. There will be hand sanitizer stations at the event and the tables where attendees will stop to enjoy their bowls of soup will be spaced out per social distancing guidelines.
One of the biggest changes to come this year is the fact you can participate without ever leaving your car. The group is calling it the “Drive-Thru Order & Go” program. Essentially, if you want to participate and support the food bank but don’t feel safe walking around the train depot for the event, you have a second option.
Four parking spots off to the side of the event are designated for those who want to take a bowl home with them. Police officers will be on site directing traffic and volunteers will be waiting to take the orders. When you park, you’ll roll down your window and will be given a blank card to pick your favorite of the 39 soups offered. Then the volunteer will go get it for you and bring it back to your window. You never even have to unbuckle your seat belt.
“If anyone is concerned with being out in public, this is an option for you,” Dodson said. “We think some will take advantage of it but we hope those who feel safe come and enjoy the day with us. There’s so much to do, so to really get the most of the experience you should come and prepare to stay.”
Live entertainment will be provided by Larry Clark, a Christian and secular jazz saxophonist and member of the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame, and Ace Jackson and the Jump Kings, a pop and jazz band.
There will also be an interactive mosaic created by a Disney sidewalk chalk artist, also known as a “street painter.” She is creating a massive mosaic that will be broken up into individual squares. Attendees can then get involved and make their own squares and at the end it should have a quilt-esque “big picture.”
One of the most anticipated aspects of the event each year is the live auction. This year it will be broken up into two parts with the first happening around 11 a.m. and the second around 12 p.m. Some of the items auctioned off will be the nine larger bowls that have been designed by local artists. The Florida Strawberry Queen and Court painted one of the nine bowls and will assist in the second live auction.
“Come out and enjoy the community service project for the food bank, support the food bank and just have a great time with your family,” Dodson said.
For more information, visit ufbpc.org.