Empty Bowls fundraiser for Foodworks remains virtual in 2021

  | Community

BRATTLEBORO, VT — In recognition of rising COVID case numbers, the Empty Bowls Steering Committee has opted to go virtual again this year as opposed to returning to an in-person dinner.  For 18 years now, local potters have created and donated beautiful and functional bowls to raise funds for the food shelf that has now grown to be Foodworks. In that regard, this year is no different.

“We experienced incredible support last year, putting on Empty Bowls in the time of COVID,” explains Groundworks Board Member and Empty Bowls Co-Chair Beth Kiendl. “The tweaks we made last year—shifting to selling bowls in local storefronts—were so successful due to the community support for this important work—providing emergency food to all who need it in our community.”

Staff and Volunteers at Foodworks pack and deliver two-week supply boxes of food all over Windham County—a shift made to continue operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems like we say so every year,” said Sara Ryan, Co-Chair of the Empty Bowls Steering Committee and member of the Groundworks Board, “but it is true—Foodworks needs this support more than ever.  We continue to meet the need by distributing twice as much food as we were pre-pandemic.”

“The need for emergency food is expected to remain at heightened levels even after the pandemic subsides and will remain high as we experience the effects of the Delta variant in Windham County,” said Libby Bennett, Groundworks’ Director of Development and Communications.

Last year, despite the cancelation of the dinner due to the pandemic, organizers managed to raise over $27,000 through the support of sponsors, potters, and all who purchased bowls in the community.  This year, the Committee hopes to outraise years past as Foodworks continues to see increased need.

“We were just getting used to all that new space allows us to do with the program when the pandemic arrived in this community,” explains Foodworks Coordinator Christine Colascione, who designed the space to feel like a neighborhood bodega. Prior to closing down to a model that now includes curbside pickup and deliveries only, Colascione and her team had introduced sampling stations where patrons and volunteers could try out different vegetables, etc. and get ideas for meals made from items available at Foodworks. “We had just gotten our new waiting area set up with cookbooks and recipes and the space was feeling so warm and welcoming.  We’re excited to find more ways to continue to make Foodworks an inclusive, educational, and community-building space!”

Colascione and other local food system contributors including, the Vermont Foodbank, Retreat Farm and Edible Brattleboro have been surveying shoppers in order to gather feedback to determine when the Foodworks space might re-open to in-person shopping; as well as to shape a community wide food system plan for the next five years or so.

Funds raised through the Empty Bowls effort help to keep the shelves stocked at Foodworks for families and individuals in need of emergency food.  Funds raised from the sale of each $25 bowl purchased could provide a two-week box of food for a family of five due to Foodworks’ leveraging of donations and purchasing power at the Vermont Foodbank.

Local potters are busy handcrafting scores of bowls, which will be available for purchase at $25 apiece in local stores, including:  the Brattleboro Food Co-Op, Everyone’s Books, The Kitchen Sync, Putney Food Co-Op, Putney General Store, The Shoe Tree, and Zephyr Designs.


“Party Packs” of 6 and 12 assorted bowls are available for $125 and $250 respectively and can be purchased online only at GroundworksVT.org/EVENTS.  Party Packs are designed to allow supporters to “Host your own Empty Bowls” with a small group of friends and family.  Bowls purchased online will be delivered within a 30-minute drive of Brattleboro.  Areas outside of that radius can arrange for pickup in Brattleboro.

On Saturday, October 9th at 4pm—the evening the dinner would have otherwise been served—Groundworks will premiere a broadcast presentation on YouTube featuring staff, volunteers and Board giving the latest updates on Foodworks’ impact in the community.  More information will be available on both the “Groundworks Collaborative” and “Empty Bowls – Southern Vermont” Facebook pages, as well as at GroundworksVT.org.

Organizers of the event look forward to gathering as usual once the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

“We are grateful for all of the potters, restaurants, businesses, and volunteers that come together each year to make this event possible, and to Landmark College for their willingness to host us year after year,” said Groundworks Executive Director Josh Davis.  “We will miss the opportunity to see and greet all of the familiar faces and friends of this organization who come out every year for the Empty Bowls Dinner and we are grateful for all of the ways this community is coming together to help us in supporting our neighbors when we all need the help more than ever.”

Groundworks Collaborative would like to thank the following sponsors of this year’s Empty Bowls Dinner:  Silver Forest of Vermont; Trust Company of Vermont;   Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors, Brattleboro Food Co-Op; Brattleboro Savings & Loan; King Arthur Baking Company; Rod’s Towing & Repairs; Savings Bank of Walpole; Sidehill Farm; David Manning; Dead River Company; Lawton Flooring; 802 Credit Union; Abbiati Monuments; Beadniks; Brattleboro Portable Storage;​​ Downey, Pieciak, Fitzgerald & Co.; Farnum Insulators; Howard Printing; Members 1st Credit Union; Phillips, Dunn, Shriver & Carroll; School for International Training (SIT); The Marina; The Recker Allstate Agency; The Shoe Tree; Alan Scott Auto Repair; Burrows Specialized Sports; Everyone’s Books; Physical Therapy Services of Brattleboro; Richmond Auto Repair; The Richards Group; and Zephyr Designs.

Donations to Foodworks to support the Empty Bowls effort can be made at www.GroundworksVT.org/events and by mail to:  Groundworks Collaborative, PO Box 370, Brattleboro, VT 05302 (please make checks payable to Groundworks Collaborative and write “Empty Bowls” in the memo line to ensure the donation is designated to Foodworks).


For an interview, contact:

Libby Bennett, Director of Development & Communications

lbennett@GroundworksVT.org  |  802-257-5415 x1001