If you live in Lake County, there’s a good chance your neighbor harbors a dark secret. Every day, thousands of people next door wonder how they'll scrounge their next meal. Lake County Food Pantry will shine a spotlight on an increasingly shared heartbreaking secret by dishing out soup and awareness about the breadth of local hunger at its “Empty Bowls” event on Feb. 8 at Wooten Park in Tavares.

Empty Bowls models the fundraising concept developed by art teachers John Hartom and his wife, Lisa Blackburn in the early 1990s, who saw soup as a super way to boost awareness about hunger and other issues and spark action. The event first launched in Lake County in 2009, however, this is the first year Lake Cares is managing it. This year, vendors will provide a selection of soups. Attendees will pay $10 for two soups, bread, bottled water, and a bowl to use — which doubles as reminder of the region’s daily epidemic of empty bowls.  

"Hunger can be a disaster year round,” says Irene O’Malley, executive director of Lake Cares, an independent community food pantry based in Mount Dora, Fla. “Add to that the disruption and devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria and that is a recipe for disaster for many Lake County families. Lake Cares has also experienced growth [in clients served] because of these events and the fact that food insecurity is so great. Empty Bowls will bring hunger awareness.”

“Food insecurity” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture term applied to Americans’ “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods,” according to Feeding America. The national advocacy group fights hunger through a nationwide network of member food banks.

One in six Central Floridians currently battle hunger and food insecurity. In Lake Cares’ backyard, some 45,120 Lake County residents sweat daily over putting food on the table. O’Malley hopes to draw about 1,000 guests. Consequently, Lake Cares must collect 1,000 bowls for the event. Lake Cares welcomes bowl donations from local ceramic artists as well as bowls sourced through garage sales and thrift stores, etc.

Bowls can be brought to the Mount Dora office, 2001 West Old Highway 441, Suite #1 Mount Dora, Fla.

"Empty Bowls" will feature live music and strolling performances by Michelee Puppets. Guests can vote on the “People’s Choice” for favorite soup.

Vendors are needed.  Call Irene O’Malley at 352-383-0100 for an application.   For tickets, visit http://www.lakecares.org or call 352-383-0100.

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