Due to the Covid pandemic, the annual fundraising Empty Bowl Dinner hosted by the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN) this year will be a Zoom event on Sunday, Nov. 22, 7 …
Due to the Covid pandemic, the annual fundraising Empty Bowl Dinner hosted by the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN) this year will be a Zoom event on Sunday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
Traditionally, the 25-year-old event has been held at the United Lutheran Seminary at Allens Lane and Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy and the Castle at Arcadia University. The purpose of the event is to support PIHN’s anti-hunger programs, according to Rachel Falkove, PIHN’s Executive Director.
“We’ve been doing this the week before Thanksgiving to raise not only funds but awareness about our efforts,” said Falkove, who is asking area residents to use a ceramic bowl from a previous dinner and join them online for the socially distanced event. In the past, the concept for the event has been to gather together and share soup served in colorful ceramic bowls created by area clay artists.
Hosted by public radio personality Mike McGrath, who broadcasts the nationally syndicated gardening show called “You Bet Your Garden,” the Zoom event was made necessary by the rising spike in Covid-19 cases.
“We tried figuring out a way to do a drive-through dinner, but the administration at Arcadia had concerns about gathering volunteers together, given the pandemic,” said Falkove, who noted they have a loyal following of 1200 participants. This year the organization has solicited recipes from participants for a cookbook fundraiser to be published in time for holiday gifts.
“We will publish all of the restaurants that are open for takeout so people can support them. In previous years these restaurants have given generously, and it’s our way of giving back,” Falkove added. “Right now people are on tight budgets, and the best way to stretch them is with soup.”
Besides assisting PIHN in its mission, a portion of the proceeds of the cookbook will go toward the international organization, Rise up for Hunger.
“I think there is a big disconnect in our community of tremendous wealth and tremendous poverty, so those who have money are living differently but doing OK, and then there are those who are stretched thin by taking care of children at home while trying to hold down full-time jobs. Then we have the single parents who are really struggling,” Falkove said of her constituents.
Currently, PIHN opens its doors weekly to 60 or so area residents who can’t make ends meet by providing food boxes. “Their money is not stretching as far, and we are seeing all different kinds of hunger right now,” said Falkove. “We are providing supplies that they can’t purchase at the market with food stamps. There is a need, and it’s growing as it’s getting colder and unemployment checks are running out. People are bleeding and running out of cash and facing eviction.”
Falkove believes it’s only going to get worse as winter approaches, noting that on any given night in Philadelphia, an estimated 1000 to 1300 children and their families are homeless.
.“There are 2000 households in Philadelphia that have cases pending for eviction, and the city doesn’t have enough shelter beds, and we are in the midst of a pandemic. So our reason to do the dinner is to bring awareness that assistance has to go beyond government assistance and that those of us who can be helping should be helping in whatever way we can.”
To make a donation of food and non-perishable supplies, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-247-4663, ext. 100. Go to the website at philashelter.org to sign up for the Empty Bowl Dinner.
Flourtown correspondent Barbara Sherf can be reached at email@example.com.