SPOTLIGHT: Using Empty Bowls to Feed the Hungry

SPOTLIGHT: Using Empty Bowls to Feed the Hungry

Subscribe to SpotlightLynnfield church youth use their artistic talents to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness

The youth of Centre Congregational Church, UCC in Lynnfield joined the youth at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to help fill “Empty Bowls” and raise money and awareness in the fight to end hunger.

Earlier this year, the Centre Church Christian Education Director, Barbara Langill, arranged for the church’s youth to join folks from St. Paul’s in a fellowship and mission program. (The Centre Church youth group regularly joins youth from other local churches monthly for service opportunities.) The Episcopal youth leader had participated in an Empty Bowls program before and wanted to share the experience with others; so she planned and organized the event for the group.

Empty Bowls is a two-part event that was started by Imagine Render, a non-profit organization that strives to create positive and lasting social change through the arts, education, and projects that build community.  In the first part of the event, bowls are decorated, glazed, fired, and donated.  In the second part, food is eaten from them.

Lynnfield church youth use their artistic talents to raise awareness of hunger and homelessnessFor part 1, the ecumenical group of 15 youth and adults attended a painting party at the Episcopal church where bowls, brushes, and glaze were provided at no cost. The attendees were given the unfinished white ceramic bowls, which they decorated and hand-painted. Once glazed, the bowls were then fired in kilns and put on display with many other bowl donations at an Empty Bowls event.

“We were looking for ways to help fight hunger and homelessness fairly close to home,” explained Linda Ladd, the Missions and Outreach representative at Centre Church.  “And this seemed a great way for the youth to join in fellowship and fun, while engaging in thoughtful talk about how hard it would be if you didn’t have enough to eat.” 

Ladd found that although the youth enjoyed an almost- endless supply of snacks while they were creating their artwork, there were plenty of serious conversations about the many people who do not have enough to eat and how lucky the people in the group were to not have to experience that struggle.  “This project made them really think about being hungry, especially as they were examining and holding that empty bowl in their hands for so long,” she said.

For part 2, the group donated their bowls to a community Empty Bowls event, where the public is invited to participate and support those in need. At an Empty Bowls event held in May, attendees selected a hand-painted bowl from the 500 bowls that had been donated by various participating groups, and enjoyed a simple meal of soup and bread with their neighbors and friends around the table. Soups and breads were donated by local chefs and guests could take the bowls home as a reminder of the hungry in the community. Admission was $15 in advance or $18 at the door.  

“As it says in NIV, Romans 12:5-8, ‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given us,” said Langill.  “’If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.’  We used our gift of art, to show what was in our hearts.”

You can reach Barbara Langill and Linda Ladd at the church office at  (781) 334-3050 or Follow them on Facebook at


Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...

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