Local Ashland artists, students, and activists are preparing for the sixth annual Peace House-sponsored Empty Bowls Supper, a fundraiser intended to aid the hungry in the Rogue Valley. Last Thursday Ashland High School art students worked in conjunction with Southern Oregon University students in the ceramics studio throwing and molding clay bowls to be given away at the event on April 28.

The supper seeks to raise funds that will aid programs such as the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, ACCESS of Jackson County, Food Angels, and Uncle Foods Diner, all of which provide services for the those suffering from food insecurity in the Rogue Valley. According to Zoe Alowan, former director of the Empty Bowls project, the supper was able to raise $14,000 last year, most of which went to the organizations listed above.

“Hunger is a huge problem today,” said Deborah Rothschild, an Empty Bowls coordinator. “It’s just terrible that we live in such a rich country where so many people have so much and yet so many people have so little that they don’t even have enough to eat.”

Rothschild explained that there is a huge number of “food insecure” people in the area, meaning that these individuals don’t know where their next meal is coming from. According to the Ashland Food Project, they are supplying food to more than 1,300 locals each month. Of that number, only 2 percent of are homeless, but 38 percent are children.

The dinner will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 28, in the First United Methodist Church’s Wesley Hall, 175 N. Main St., Ashland. Local restaurants including Bella Union, C Street Bistro, Greenleaf Restaurant, Mauren Faye Caterers, Pangea, Standing Stone, La Baguette, Organicos, Rise Up, and Market of Choice will donate the food to be served in the hand-crafted ceramic bowls created by local artists. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students, and free for contributing artists and children under 12. They can be purchased at Paddington Station, Northwest Nature Shop, online at peacehouse.net, or at the door.

Though many artistic contributions are made from potters around the Rogue Valley, this is the first year that SOU and Ashland High School students have worked together on the project.

“It brings our students together, both art students and other students,” said SOU Assistant Professor Robin Strangfeld, who has participated in the event every year since it began. “Then it does a really great job of raising money for the local food banks and people have a really fun time doing it.” According to Strangfeld, her students donated 5-10 clay boxes worth of bowls last year, with approximately 6-8 bowls in each box. On Thursday the high school students alone made around a dozen bowls.

“My favorite part of the event as a teacher is giving students the idea that what they’re doing with art is important and that creating art can be a catalyst to create positive things in the world beyond just making pretty things,” said Sam Scharf, an Ashland High School art teacher. “Giving them a goal like this where they’re making something and it’s helping to support the community I think is really cool.”

“It’s really cool to be giving back,” said Cedar Taulbe, a senior at Ashland High School. “It feels great from both an artistic and charitable standpoint to be able to give back with something I love to do.”

“The most important thing about today is that Ashland High School and SOU students are coming together as a younger demographic to really make an imprint and really make a difference for people who don’t have enough food,” said Rothschild, who recalled only having elementary students from the Ashland School District participate in past years.

Ashland freelance writer Hannah Jones is editor of The Siskiyou, the Southern Oregon University student-run news website. Email her at hannah.m.jones21@gmail.com.

(April 18: This story was updated to reflect that this is the sixth year Peace House has sponsored it, not the fifth.)