SKOWHEGAN — Twenty-nine million tons of food is wasted in American every year while 16 percent of children go hungry.

That’s the assessment of the roughly 30 students in the Friends of Rachel club at Skowhegan Area Middle School who are raising money to combat the problem locally with an event called Empty Bowls.

“There’s hunger everywhere,” Mariah Bonneau, a seventh-grader from Skowhegan said. “There are people in our area that go to bed hungry.”

The students have made 100 clay bowls to be filled with soup and served with bread from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday fundraiser to benefit area food cupboards. It’s a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Chicken noodle and vegetable soups will be served at Tewksbury Hall on Island Avenue. The suggested donation is $6 and the first 100 people get to keep the bowl, according to Elizabeth Jones, also a seventh-grader.

“Friends of Rachel is about stopping bullying in the school and helping other people — it’s what we started working on first,” Jones said.

Her classmate, Andrew Todd, added that it was easy making the leap from stopping bullying to fighting hunger right here in central Maine. The result is the same, he said: Helping people.

“It’s like compassion; showing compassion for other people,” Todd said. “The way that we made that leap is that we try and help people that are getting bullied and that led to helping the people’s need in the community.”

The Friends of Rachel club arose from an anti-bullying presentation called Rachel’s Challenge at the school in January 2011, said teacher Kelly Hanscom who helped coordinate Empty Bowls. Rachel Scott was the first student killed at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

The middle school group started by raising money for 26 Thanksgiving baskets, than went on to raise money for Christmas gifts, Hanscom said. The progression was a natural one to helping food banks in Canaan, Cornville/Athens, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan and St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen in Skowhegan, she said.

“Each week in Rachel’s Challenge they have to answer a question about different topics, always about being a better person, compassion, helping others,” Hanscom said. “They were asked, ‘If you saw a person that looked homeless, that was the stereotype of homeless on the street, what would you do?’ “

The sad answer was that people in Skowhegan and elsewhere locally probably would not help that person, she said. They would be too afraid of the person or too shy or nervous to help personally.

Empty Bowls was created to help fill that void, Hanscom and the students said.

The group contacted Yvonne Bollenbacher, a 2006 Skowhegan High School graduate who operates Skowhegan Pottery in the Somerset Grist Mill. There the student made the bowls, painted them and fired them in Bollenbacher’s kiln.

Marinel Demmons, an eighth-grader from Smithfield and a member of the Student Council, said it was good work making the bowls for a good cause.

“I think that making the bowls was fun because we got to make them our very own design; each bowl is unique, they can’t be compared to one another,” Demmons said. “You got to color it or you might get to paint someone else’s bowls, so you don’t know where it’s going to end up and you know that it’s going to a great cause.”

The soup will be made in the middle school kitchen during Rachel’s Challenge on Friday, the day of the Empty Bowl dinner. Live jazz dinner music will be provided by Brian Richmond. For ticket information contact Hanscom at 474-3339 or [email protected]

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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