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Students gear up for Empty Bowls

Kasee Meyer, a fifth-grader at Starr Elementary, paints glaze on a bowl she created for New Richmond Empty Bowls. The bowls will be sold at Hillside Elementary on April 22 and all profits will be donated to Five Loaves Food Shelf and New Richmond BackPack Program.

New Richmond art rooms are bustling with activity as students hustle to finish hundreds of bowls for New Richmond Empty Bowls on April 22.

The event, which is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on April 22 at Hillside Elementary, is just one way the community is coming together to combat local hunger.

Empty Bowls is a national campaign, started by a school teacher in Michigan who wanted to help his students raise funds to support a food drive.

In New Richmond, bowls will be on display in Hillside Elementary gymnasium. Guests are able to select a bowl for purchase and head to the cafeteria for a simple meal of soup and bread.

All the proceeds raised will benefit local people, said Cheryl Emerson, co-chairwoman of the event. The money will be split between The Salvation Army BackPack Program and Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center in New Richmond.

The BackPack Program supplies local students with backpacks filled with food for the weekend. The backpacks are discreetly distributed to local children the last day before the weekend.

Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center's food pantry serves about 1,600 families a year. It's available to income-eligible families within the New Richmond School District.

Although people might not think there's much of a need in St. Croix County, the number of local people going home hungry is on the rise.

• 11.9 percent of St. Croix County residents have low incomes or are in poverty.

• 7.8 percent of St. Croix County children are on Food Share (formerly called Food Stamps).

• 57 percent of St. Croix County's WIC families reported food insecurity in 2007.

• The number of New Richmond students who qualify for free/reduced school lunches has steadily increased from 12 percent in 1995 to 27 percent in 2009.

New Richmond's event started in 2007 and raised $8,200 its first year; last year about $10,750 was raised.

In addition to student bowls, "celebrity" bowls -- made by school staff and other local officials -- T-shirts, keychains and bracelets will also be sold to help raise money.

A silent auction will take place in the hallway outside the gymnasium and feature several items donated by local artists and businesses.

For more information or to volunteer at the event, call Emerson at 715-243-7421.