Food for Thought Blog

Empty Bowls Provides 1 Million Meals and Counting

July 18th, 2018Events, Stories

It’s true what they say: “sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.”

Twenty years ago when Laurie Cowell and Rose Stark talked about hosting the first local Empty Bowls event, in support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, neither imaged how much it would grow or the significant impact it would have on the community.

“Empty Bowls has become part of our community, we see many groups returning each year to enjoy the soup and to support The Food Bank.” said Laurie Cowell, Co-Founder Waterloo Potters’ Workshop Empty Bowls.

And while organizers and volunteers are thrilled to celebrate 20 years of feeding our neighbours, it’s not the only milestone achieved this year.

Since 1998, Empty Bowls Waterloo Region has helped provide more than 1,002,837 million meals to those in need of food support. Laurie Cowell who has played an integral role in Empty Bowls is thrilled at the contribution the Waterloo Potters’ Workshop has had over the years. “It is a source of pride for our workshop that we have generated enough funds to purchase over 1 million meals.”

“What an incredible accomplishment! One million meals is a huge milestone and everyone should be very proud,” said Wendi Campbell, Chief Executive Officer at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. “The continued success of Empty Bowls is a direct reflection of the unwavering dedication and commitment of the volunteers for planning it and our community for attending.”

The 2018 Empty Bowls, raised enough money to provide 77,558 meals to those in need.

Empty Bowls Cheque Presentation

Suzanne Luke, Curator, Robert Langen Art Gallery and Kim Wilhelm, Director of Development, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, pose during the cheque presentation.

The History of Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls, which began in the early 1990’s in the U.S. as a way for artists to give back to their community in a meaningful way, has evolved into an international project that is focused on fighting hunger, raising as much money as possible to feed those in need of food assistance and raising awareness about hunger and related-issues.

Every year, members of the Waterloo Potter’s Workshop craft more than 600 unique and beautiful bowls which are donated to the event and then sold at the charity luncheon and dinner, the proceeds go to The Food Bank, where every dollar provides three meals.

Due to such strong relationships with food industry partners, The Food Bank is able to do a lot with a little. Every $1 donated at Empty Bowls provides 3 meals to those in need in Waterloo Region and helps the 1 in 20 households that need food assistance.

Where the Community Comes Together

Collaboration and community partnerships play a significant role in the success of the annual event. The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery manages the ticket sales and Knox Waterloo Presbyterian Church and Wilfrid Laurier University host the three seating’s. The support continues throughout the community with a number of local businesses and organizations providing the food and drink, printing services, and more.

“Empty Bowls has helped to bring the workshop together as a community,” said Rosemaire Startek, Co-Founder Waterloo Potters’ Workshop Empty Bowls. “Our Bowl-A-Thon has involved so many of our members, including former members and one in her nineties! Everyone is so enthusiastic.”

Please check our website:, for information about future events.