Fifteen years ago, Summerfield’s Joe Coupe walked into a classroom at Frances Wakeland Elementary School in Bradenton to fix a teacher’s computer.
But what he noticed first was a second-grade student, his head on a table, fast asleep while the other children completed activities. He sensed something was wrong.
“(The teacher) said he was living at Salvation Army because his parents were in jail,” Coupe said, adding the boy couldn’t sleep at night because of the noise at the facility. “His only meals were from the school.”
It changed Coupe’s perspective.
“After that, anytime you want to do something good for kids, I’m in,” Coupe said.
The Food Bank of Manatee is giving Coupe another opportunity.
He is using his woodturning talents, as are other members of the Sarasota Woodturners, to carve wooden bowls for the Empty Bowls fundraiser Nov. 3 in Lakewood Ranch.
“This event is all about the symbolic meaning of soup and bread and represents all the empty bowls within the community,” said Stephanie Grepling, marketing director for Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee, which operates the Food Bank. “Having soup and bread can mean the difference between having a nutritional meal or not.”
According to the Food Bank, one in four children and one in seven adults in Manatee County are considered “food insecure,” meaning there is at least a $20 per week shortfall to feed that person. That’s 14.1% of Manatee’s 343,700 population.
“That’s a critical decision between bills or medicine or rent,” Grepling said. “The need is critical right now. The money that is collected (from Empty Bowls) and all proceeds go to The Food Bank of Manatee.”
The Food Bank distributes food to 115 pantries and food kitchens.
For the Empty Bowls event, guests enjoy a meal of soup and bread and can take home a commemorative bowl to help remember there are empty bowls to be filled. Most of the bowls are ceramic and have been decorated by local artists or individuals via paint parties.
However, the more than 150 bowls created by the woodturners will be reserved for individuals who purchase VIP tickets to the event.
Sarasota Woodturners club president Tom Falcone, who attended an Empty Bowls event last year, said his group partnered with The Food Bank because 97 cents of every dollar raised by The Food Bank goes into programming.
Advantage Lumber, in Sarasota, donated wood for the project.