The Community Food Bank (CFB) serves more than 60,000 individuals each month by acquiring and distributing nutritious food to more than 50 pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters--nine of which are located right here in Hernando County. And those who might like to take a drive to Citrus County next week can support CFB by supporting the arts--both culinary and visual.
This year’s Citrus Empty Bowls event to benefit the Community Food Bank unites local restaurants and businesses who are joining forces to fight hunger. During the week of April 11th – 17th, select participating restaurants will donate a portion of their food sales when customers dine in or take out their Empty Bowl Specials meals.
"This is the fourth year for Empty Bowls," explained Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFB. "Last year, we raised $15,000."
Traditionally, Empty Bowls meals are served in bowls made and handpainted by local students. Yet with many schools teaching virtually and many eateries serving takeout meals, CFB's Empty Bowls event was reconceptualized this year.
"Because of COVID, we had to reimagine things," said Sprague.
In years previous, Citrus students decorated bowls for the effort. This year, one young bowl artist was chosen to instead create a logo for the event; an artist who also happens to be a CFB volunteer.
"The bowls were always a feature of live Empty Bowls feasts. It's a good opportunity for kids to learn the arts, and to learn about the problem of hunger," said Sprague. "While this wasn't possible this year, we did select one of the student bowl artists to design our logo."
That student is Jaszimine Lathem-Miller, a 16-year-old student of the Lecanto High School Lecanto School of the Arts. She created a graphic art logo that portrayed a blue and gold bowl with golden hearts hovering above, and the words Filling Empty Citrus Bowls.
"The design is light and colorful," said Sprague. "It is hopeful and inspiring."
And this, says Lathem-Miller, is all by design.
"The bowl is blue to represent the sadness of an empty bowl, while the gold filling the light brings light," said Lathem-Miller, who counts art as a primary passion she has enjoyed since the age of 3.
Lathem-Miller, whose mother is employed at CFB, has volunteered at the pantry for the past year.
"It feels great to help the community," she said.
And while this event is titled Filling Empty Citrus bowls, those who participate can rest assured that many Hernando bowls will be filled as well. CFB, in fact, now provides food to nine Hernando County charities:
Jericho Road, Joseph's House, Dawn Center, Northcliffe Baptist Church, People Helping People, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and the mobile food pantries Bringing on the Sun and The Center for Independent Living.
"Traditionally, Empty Bowls has involved participation from Hernando restaurants--and we hope to get back there next year," said Sprague. "This event does support Hernando, and we're also looking for more Hernando agencies with which to partner."
This year, she invites Hernando residents to take a ride to Citrus and dine at participating restaurants that include Amy’s on the Ave., Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters, Katch 22, Manatee Maven, Wallace’s Greenhouse Bistro and Tim’s Barber Room--which kicked off the event April 2 by donating a portion of the proceeds from each haircut to the CFB.
Visit www.feed352.org for a full list of participating restaurants and businesses and to view applicable specials.
According to Sprague, the CFB hopes to raise $10,000 through the Empty Bowls campaign.
“Even when our own bowls are full, we can fill our neighbors' bowls," she said. Lathem-Miller agrees.
"The message of my art," she said. "Is to give as much as you can. Even if it's a little, it still helps."