Saturday, August 13, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 24
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County holds first in-person Lompoc Empty Bowls fundraiser since 2019

CALEB WISEBLOOD

Four long tables full of handcrafted ceramic bowls stood near the entrance of the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center on Wednesday, July 27. Many guests of this year’s Lompoc Empty Bowls fundraiser circled the display more than once before making a selection.


SUPER BOWLS
For a $25 donation, each attendee of Lompoc Empty Bowls was able to pick out their own handcrafted ceramic bowl from a large selection, before being led to a dining area where they were welcome to feast on several kinds of soup donated by local chefs and restaurants.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

“They’re all painted by hand. Every bowl is one of a kind,” said Judith Smith-Meyer, senior communications manager at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, while perusing the bowls. 

Meanwhile, several others strolled around the four conjoined tables like a carousel.

See you next fall
Visit foodbanksbc.org for more info on the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, which plans to host its next iteration of Santa Maria Empty Bowls on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Santa Maria Fairpark, located at 937 S. Thornburg St., Santa Maria. The venue will hold three separate seatings (11 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m.).

For a $25 donation, each attendee of Lompoc Empty Bowls was able to pick out their own bowl from the lot before being led to a dining area where they were welcome to feast on several kinds of soup donated by local chefs and restaurants. 

Soup options at the gathering included chicken tortilla, potato bacon, tomato basil, clam chowder, lentil, vegetable, and at least half a dozen more. The handcrafted bowls were created by members of local organizations, including the Vandenberg Spouses Club, Santa Ynez Valley Community Outreach, Allan Hancock College, and Lompoc Valley Middle School.

“We’re super thrilled to be back,” said Smith-Meyer, who added that the last time the Foodbank was able to host an in-person Empty Bowls event in Lompoc was 2019. 


THRILLS AND CHILI
Soup options at the gathering included chicken tortilla, potato bacon, tomato basil, clam chowder, lentil, vegetable, and several more. Judith Smith-Meyer, senior communications manager at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, said her favorite offering was the chili (pictured).
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

Before cancellation, the scheduled date for the Foodbank’s 2020 event was just within a week of the pandemic shutdowns that March.

“The community is rejoicing to be able to come back together again. … We had a full house at our first seating of 250 people,” Smith-Meyer said around 12:30 p.m., about an hour after the first group of Empty Bowls attendees were seated.


COLORFUL CREATION
The handcrafted ceramic bowls at Lompoc Empty Bowls were created by members of local organizations, including the Vandenberg Spouses Club, Santa Ynez Valley Community Outreach, Allan Hancock College, and Lompoc Valley Middle School.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

A total of about 400 people attended the fundraiser, which raised an estimated total of $60,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships, raffle and silent auction proceeds, and proceeds of a potted succulent sale at the event, Smith-Meyer said.

“We had only budgeted to raise $45,000, so that is a thrill. The community came through with such robust support for our neighbors in need in Lompoc,” she said. “The Foodbank is thrilled with the response. All the proceeds from this event stay in the city of Lompoc to support residents here who are facing hunger or food insecurity. 

“Last year, the Foodbank distributed a million pounds of food in the city of Lompoc itself,” Smith-Meyer added. “We served 16,000 local residents.”


BACK TO THE BENEFIT
“We’re super thrilled to be back,” said Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Senior Communications Manager Judith Smith-Meyer. She said the last time the Foodbank was able to host an in-person Empty Bowls event in Lompoc was 2019.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

As for upcoming fundraisers, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County plans to host its next iteration of Santa Maria Empty Bowls on Oct. 26 at the Santa Maria Fairpark. 

The Empty Bowls concept originated in 1990 in Michigan before being adopted by countless food-related charities around the world, said Smith-Meyer, who described the program as a way to not only raise funds, but awareness as well, for “all those in our community who are dealing with the daily disaster of hunger.”

“There are residents throughout Santa Barbara County who face that disaster every day,” she said, before describing the ceramic bowls as helpful reminders of the event’s purpose. “Having your empty bowl at home with you after the event sort of keeps them [those in need] top of mind, and helps us remember that everybody in our community matters.”


MY LITTLE PONY
No two bowls were alike at Lompoc Empty Bowls. The handcrafted ceramic bowls varied in size, color, and design. Some bowls had plant or animal—real or not—designs, like this unicorn bowl.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

During this year’s Lompoc Empty Bowls, soups were served by city and county officials, including Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne and Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, and other volunteers. La Botte in Lompoc, AJ Spurs in Buellton, and Central Coast-based food trailer Surf Sisters Luncheonette were among the event’s various soup donors.

Smith-Meyer’s personal favorite offering at the fundraiser was the chili, she said.

“My favorite soup is actually chili, and it’s prepared by our own Jamie Diggs, who works at the Foodbank. She’s our partner services manager. She made a giant vat of chili to donate,” said Smith-Meyer, who added that Diggs lives in Lompoc and is a 2021 Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce Award recipient. 

“She’s the Foodbank’s strongest connection to the Lompoc community.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood also loved the chili. Send your favorite chili toppings to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










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