Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB)’s signature annual event Empty Bowls is fast approaching. On March 17 from 11 – 1 p.m., TAFB will celebrate its 18th annual fundraising event. Much like the name suggests, Empty Bowls is an event intended to remind attendees of all the empty bowls in our community that need to be filled. By buying a ticket to the afternoon of entertainment and delicious cuisine, you make that goal one step closer to achievable.
Cindy Baker first attended Empty Bowls seven years ago with her then-employer EECU. After her retirement, however, she transitioned from being a guest at the event to starring on the Empty Bowls Steering Committee. 2020 will be her third year serving as Chairwoman of the committee. Baker, her committee, and TAFB work together to ensure that Empty Bowls delivers a fun-filled yet mission-driven experience every year.
Although many attendees are repeat guests, Baker has perfected the pitch to interest any Empty Bowls newcomers. She said, “I typically describe it as a collaboration between the food bank, the artist community, and the restaurants to come together and pull their resources to fund the biggest fundraiser that the food bank holds. There’s great food and there’s great pieces of art that are free with their ticket.”
Every year, about 2,000 guests mingle and dine in the Will Rogers Coliseum where the event is held. While they have fun, they do so knowing that their very attendance is shaping a brighter future for hungry Texans in their area. Baker explained, “Especially knowing what the money’s going toward—it’s so specific. There’s nothing abstract about what your ticket goes toward. If you buy a ticket, it’s 325 meals that you’re providing for someone today. The byproduct is that the food’s good and you get something to take home with you that represents that.”
The 2020 event will feature some changes to improve guest experience during the two-hour event. Baker said, “We’re going to see a new and a fun layout so that you can interact with the artists while only a few feet away from the restaurant providers. The VIP Access area will also provide a more relaxed atmosphere for our sponsors to hang out in if they’d like to. And other than that, we really didn’t stray from our roots. So the core of everything that we’ve always done and done well is still going to be intact.”
The core of Empty Bowls, as Baker mentioned, is certainly what keeps guests coming back. What started as an artist-led collaboration with food banks to fill empty bowls across America is now a regionalized sensation involving pillars of the community. Yet, everyone still shows up for that original mission to end hunger.
Rather than quantifying Empty Bowls’ success by ticket sales, Baker says that making sure guests walk away knowing TAFB’s mission comes first. “If people walk away understanding what the food bank’s mission and their message is, then that’s a successful event. It’s not how many people showed up. It’s not how many bowls of samples we passed out. What matters is if people walk away with our mission. Then they got it,” Baker said.
It’s not only the guests who recognize the impact of the event. The artists are the minds behind the massively influential and charitable event. “It’s just crazy what the artists do. Three thousand bowls a year, not their job, but just their contributions. That’s just amazing. Just looking at 3,000 bowls on a table, unless you’re a part of the artist community, you don’t realize how much goes into all that, but it’s amazing,” Baker said.
However, one of Empty Bowls’s biggest draws is the assortment of restaurants dishing out their best eats. From old favorites like Fred’s Texas Café to new additions such as Chicken Salad Chick, the restaurant list for 2020 will appeal to every taste bud. The array of cuisine is diverse, but Baker said it’s not the food that makes the event a smash.
“My favorite part is interacting with the community. We couldn’t do it without even the individual ticket holders. It just goes down to that level.”
Don’t miss out on your chance to sample Fort Worth’s finest food, take home a unique and handcrafted bowl, all while making sure people in your community are able to put food on the table.