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Location change, extended hours for 2018 Empty Bowls

The 2018 New Richmond Empty Bowls event will be held on Thursday, April 12, from 5-8 p.m. at New Richmond High School. Pictured are Jean Needham, Joan Simpson, Linnea Engstrom, Lisa Johnson, Bobbie Guyette, Sara Rogers and Lynnete McCarty. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia

In the hopes of increasing attendance and donations, the New Richmond Empty Bowls event committee has made a series of changes to the 11th annual event. The 2018 Empty Bowls event will be held in the New Richmond High School commons, from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, April 12.

"The high school just offers a nice loading dock and storage area. The commons is a great space and there is no other school that provides that, where we can have the whole event in one area," said New Richmond Supervisor of School Nutrition Bobbie Guyette. "There has always been a lot of push people who work in the Cities to change the time since they would like to come and potentially make a donation."

The event was held at the middle school last year from 5-7 p.m., and had been held at the Community Commons for several years before the building was demolished last year.

The annual Empty Bowls event is held to raise money for the Happy Kids Backpack program, which works to reduce/eliminate food insecurity for school-aged children during school-year weekends

"We have had increased participation in the backpack program, so it is important to keep it funded," said Lynnete McCarty, who works at the Five Loaves Food Pantry. "I think we have also changed quite a bit to the program in the last few years, including adding more vouchers to the backpacks, which are more costly. The reason the vouchers are increasing is, along with the increase in the numbers, the quality of the fresh fruit and produce."

The fundraiser features soup and bread, homemade bowls and other pottery for sale, a silent auction, a bake sale and other kid friendly activities, such as a fruit walk and bracelet making. The event will also include a DJ and the Hunger Bingo Game. Food donors for the meal include: Ready Randy's, Champs, Subway, Not Justa Cafe, Family Fresh, Pete's Pizza, Bernick's, Next Door Cafe, Dominos and Jimmy Johns.

"We are shooting for raising $9,000-10,000 more than last year, with a goal of raising $30,000. We hit $21,000 last year, but hitting the $30,000 mark would allow us to do more fresh produce and vouchers. Our numbers are expected to continue to rise, so we will need to raise more money to keep up with the demand," Guyette said.

The bowls available for purchase were made by fifth graders, middle and high school students, and community members. There will also be chip and dip platters, trivets, necklaces and other products made and donated by students and community members.

"Looking for donations for the bake sale and the silent auction, which could include a service as well. We are trying to think outside of the box on the silent auction to get more people interested in bidding," said district nurse Joan Simpson.

According to Simpson, the demographics of New Richmond are changing and the food pantry is showing that there is a great need for food and security. The food pantry gained over 1,500 new clients last year.

"We know the need is there, and this is just one program to help address the need, but we know it is not going away. We know it is becoming bigger. That is why when this event was established, it was critical that we continue to fund the backpack program," Simpson said.

One of the other reasons committee members are hoping to raise more money this year is to continue to add more milk and meat vouchers to the backpacks the students take home every weekend, in addition to making the program more nutritional for the students and their families.

"Our goal has been to get a milk voucher every week and we have accomplished that. Now we are working on increasing the volumes of fresh produce, as well as meat. We are hoping to increase the nutritional quality of what the students take home versus canned foods. As a program, we are looking to move towards becoming more nutritional," Simpson said. "When you go healthy you go more expensive, but we are willing to do that because we know the importance of that from a very young age. We are also using local stores and vendors as well as Second Harvest so that we are staying local."

The New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program has also partnered with River Valley Charities to help fund the program, which is a first for the program.

As part of that partnership, the New Richmond committee will be taking part in a golf fundraiser in Hudson in early September that will raise funds for the Hudson, River Falls, Somerset and New Richmond backpack programs.

"The group's goal is to help families and change generations through fighting hunger and educating with the Happy Kids Backpack Program in the River Valley Area," Guyette said.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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