Aiding food insecurity with a ‘bowls-full’ perspective

One of the ways Send Hunger Packing Princeton raises money to feed students in Princeton Public Schools is through its fundraisers. For four years, it has been hosting events annually to help spread the word that food insecurity does exist in places such as Princeton.

Its first fundraiser was dubbed “A Place at the Table.” The following year, it hosted a foodie gathering at Community Park Elementary School with Chef Brian Duffy, the celebrity chef featured on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” and in 2015 a hunger banquet based on the Oxfam model. This year, the fundraiser will be called  “Fill the Bowls,” also known as the “Empty Bowls Initiative,” which originated in Providence, R.I.

“We thought it would be more positive to ‘fill the bowls’ rather than to have empty ones,” said SHUPP Founder Ross Wishnick, who also serves as citizen chairperson for Princeton Human Services Commission.

Send Hunger Packing Princeton is the organization forged by a partnership between Mercer Street Friends, Princeton Human Services Commission and Princeton Public Schools to alleviate food insecurity in the Princeton area. Thus far, it has served more than 68,000 supplemental meals to meet the need of Princeton students. Before last year’s fundraiser, it had served approximately 41,000.

Throughout the year, Wishnick researches the varying methods to raise awareness. When he discovered an “empty bowls” event in Hightstown, he purchased a ticket and saw the event’s success himself.

There, he met potter Adam Walsh, a “generous and empathic” individual who is an adjunct professor at Princeton University and runs a pottery studio called the Greenwich House in New York City. This studio has been an iconic artistic studio with resources for underprivileged people for more than 100 years. After experiencing Walsh’s craftsmanship, Wishnick recruited him for the Princeton event.

“Fill the Bowls” will take place Sept. 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Hinds Plaza.

“You get a bowl, fill it with some delicious things to eat from local restaurants and  you sit down and speak with people,” Wishnick said. “You can shed some light on the fact that in all our communities, we have people of various backgrounds and experiences – which is why we started this four years ago.”

Adult patrons will be able to take home their original Adam Walsh pottery bowl for the price of their $50 ticket, of which the proceeds go directly into feeding local kids. Children’s tickets are available for $25, which covers the event, the food and a regular disposable bowl. While Walsh’s original design was to create his bowls in the neutral colors of the clay, SHUPP’s board urged him to paint them in primary colors since the event is to benefit children.

Duffy will return to Princeton for “Fill the Bowls.” He will be providing a signature dish to taste and a recipe for attendees to bring home. There will be speeches about the SHUPP program as well as music by Princeton High School a cappella groups.

Additional artisanal crafts will be raffled off at the event, such as glass bowls by Belle Mead hot glass and a hand made paper mache tiger, made by local artist Robert Jenkins.

“The thing about food insecurity is you don’t need to say anything to know it’s a problem. You have the problem and you have the solution,” Wishnick said. “The purpose of this event is to create awareness in the nice community of Princeton. Some people do experience food insecurity here and this is one response – one way to help solve the problem. We need to get more food into the kids’ bellies.”

Tickets for “Fill the Bowls” are available at SHUPPrinceton.org.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida