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Empty Bowls to Fight Hunger on Earth Day


NOTE: The 2020 Empty Bowls event was postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Professor Margaret Cuonzo making bowls for the 2019 Empty Bowls Project.

Do you haveany plans for Earth Day? Maybe you wanted to plant a tree or clean up trash. Earth Day at Long Island University Brooklyn goes further than environmental projects. The campus has also hosted humanitarian initiatives like the Empty Bowls Project, an international effort to fight hunger, organized by local artists. LIU Brooklyn had planned to host another Empty Bowls event this April 21-22, 2020 in the Salena Gallery in the Library Learning Center.

The art faculty at LIU Brooklyn and the staff and faculty members in the Campus Urban Sustainability Program (CUSP) have been participating in this event for the past few years. Art professors and their students design, make, and decorate bowls that will be filled up with a meal on the day of the event and sold for roughly $20 a piece. Typically around five people donate their time to prepare meals for the event or donate money to the cause, while around 20 people volunteer to help make the bowls that will be sold.

All proceeds from this event get donated to a global environmental or hunger cause. For example, LIU donated to “GrowNYC’s initiative to provide access to food from Farmers Markets to recipients of SNAP food vouchers, and the year before we donated to hurricane relief for Puerto Rico” said Professor Margaret Cuonzo, who is one of the volunteers and administrators of LIU’s contribution to the Empty Bowls Project and is also a member of CUSP. Another professor who is a member of CUSP and also plays a vital role in the planning and running of the project, Professor Deborah Mutnick, said, “the environmental group in which the proceeds will go to this year has not been determined yet”, but shall be soon.

The food itself even comes from a sustainable place. Some of the fruits and vegetables that are used to prepare the meals served in the one-of-a-kind bowls are grown in LIU Brooklyn’s community garden or on Professor Margaret Cuonzo’s farm. Cuonzo owns and runs her own farm in New Jersey and is one of the administrators of the Empty Bowls Project, saying that it is “one of [her] favorite memories…  seeing everyone sitting around and making conversation around these bowls”. She said that she “think back on those [memories] very fondly.” When it comes to plans for the future, Cuonzo hopes “to bring in different ceramicists this year and open up the event to more people from the surrounding community.”

Since starting the project, LIU Brooklyn has been able to contribute roughly 400 bowls, resulting in thousands of dollars being put towards the environment and those in need.

So if you want to help make a difference this Earth Day, try contacting Professors Cuonzo or Mutnick to find out how you can get involved with the Empty Bowls Project. Whether it be preparing meals, making bowls, or even just showing up to the event itself, all help and support is welcomed and appreciated.

Volunteers preparing bowls for the event last year.

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