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Interview with Brian Doyle, Committee Member of Empty Bowls

Wednesday April 11, 2018

Each year, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank benefits from many different events that promote the mission of our organization, which is to feed the hungry in Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes by providing food and educational outreach through faith-based and other community partners. One event in particular that has received tremendous support is Empty Bowls and here’s why: Empty Bowls Baton Rouge gives members of the community a chance to truly grasp the importance of fighting hunger and how it feels to have an empty bowl in front of them.  

Empty Bowls is an international project designed to fight hunger while inviting artists and groups to create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal. This world-wide initiative to end hunger began in 1990, as an art class project at a Michigan high school, to raise funds for a local food drive. The students made ceramic bowls, served a meal of soup and bread, and invited guests to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world.  

In less than a year, the class project had developed into the Empty Bowls Project. This simple yet significant idea quickly evolved into an international movement which provides support for food banks, homeless shelters, and other organizations that strive to meet the same goal: to end hunger.  

In its 4th year, Empty Bowls Baton Rouge began when a group of individuals came together in hopes to feed the hungry here locally in EBR and its surrounding parishes. Brian Doyle, one of the committee members, has a special connection to Empty Bowls which he shared with us in an interview. 

  1. How did you get involved with Empty Bowls and why is it so special to you?
    • My family and I are transplants to Baton Rouge from Las Vegas, NV.  While living in Las Vegas, I had an aunt and uncle who were very involved with that city’s Empty Bowls Event.  They invited us to attend and after a few years we also started to volunteer.  From the start we loved the event.  I had never been to an event that made all of this amazing art so accessible to the public.  They encouraged you to pick up the bowls and really get hands on with the artist’s work.  After being in Baton Rouge for a few years, we really missed going to the Empty Bowls event, so we thought, “Why not hold the event here?!”. That was really the catalyst for bringing Empty Bowls back to Baton Rouge! 
  1. Why is Empty Bowls important to the Baton Rouge community?
    • The mission of Empty Bowls is to fight hunger and food insecurity, but it is the way that this event is done that makes it unique and relevant.  Empty Bowls is a true community event!  It brings together different segments of the community – artists, restaurants, businesses, patrons, volunteers, and civil organizations, all working together toward a single, worthwhile cause.  

      A few members of the Empty Bowls Baton Rouge Committee – Byron Townsend, Lynne Pisto, Shannon Allen, Gwen Harmon, Brian Doyle
  1. How did the Empty Bowls Baton Rouge committee get together? 
    • In the beginning, I was fortunate enough to meet some really great people here in Baton Rouge.  One of our friends introduced me to Byron Townsend, who is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Capital Heights, my neighbor, Shannon Allen, who is also a committee member was friends with Lynne Pisto and Gwen Harmon.  From there, all of these folks had their own connections to other people or groups that have helped, sponsored or donated time, money and resources to this cause.  For instance, we met Todd Hines, who owns Alligator Clay and is now on the committee.  He has been an integral part of organizing the pottery and the massive effort of bowl production.   
  1. How does the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank tie into Empty Bowls?
    • The Food Bank has been an amazing partner and advocate of Empty Bowls from the beginning.  Their mission runs parallel to our own, but on a much larger scale.  We are simply happy to help support their efforts and try to get bigger every year so we can continue to shrink the gap between with and without.   
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