Students in Dawn Keough Schmidt’s ceramics classes at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington have been making bowls meant to be filled with soup, but later, when they are empty, to be reminders of all the empty bowls in the world.

They are participating in Empty Bowls, an international effort to fight hunger and educate people about issues of poverty and hunger in their community.

Educators, potters and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests at a dinner are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread, and in exchange for a cash donation, they keep their bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

“This is [an] awesome [project],” said Rice junior Owen Palmer as he used scissors to cut and smooth the top of his clay bowl in the early stages of making it. “Rice does a lot to give back to the community, and this is another example of Rice helping other families in the area.”

The Champlain Islands Empty Bowls Community Dinner that will feature the Rice bowls will take place after the first of the year. Proceeds will benefit Grand Isle County Food Shelf, Food for Thought, CIDER Community Meals and 52 Kids.

The bowls from Rice are “beautiful and very artistic, a nice addition” to the Empty Bowls event, said Rice parent Jodi Butler, an organizer of the event at Grand Isle School.

This year 60 Rice ceramics students made thin-walled, red clay, pinch bowls that they glazed and fired, and Schmidt planned to select the best 30 to donate to the event.

Rice students provided 30 bowls for the last year’s dinner too; Butler estimated that event had 350-400 bowls handcrafted for the popular event by local students and community members.

“It’s something they can easily do, and it’s important to see that in this very simple way they can be helpful by helping to fund raise for a population that needs food,” Schmidt said.

Sophomore Emily McDonald likes to help people and volunteered at the previous Empty Bowls event and made a bowl for the upcoming one. “A lot of people aren’t as lucky as most of us and aren’t able to get food as easily,” she said. “They can’t just go to the grocery store and pick something out.”

Kat Hoff, a sophomore, called the project “cool” and said it’s fun to make ceramics “while helping other people.”

This will be the fifth such event in the Champlain Islands; Butler hopes again to raise $3,500-$4,000.

For more information about Empty Bowls, go to

—Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.