SKOWHEGAN — Twenty-nine million tons of food is wasted in American every year while 16 percent of children go hungry.

That’s the assessment of the roughly 30 students in the Friends of Rachel club at Skowhegan Area Middle School who are raising money to combat the problem locally with an event called Empty Bowls.

“There’s hunger everywhere,” said Mariah Bonneau, a seventh-grader from Skowhegan. “There are people in our area that go to bed hungry.”

The students have made 100 clay bowls to be filled with soup and served with bread from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday as a fundraiser to benefit local food cupboards. It’s a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Chicken noodle and vegetable soups will be served at Tewksbury Hall on Island Avenue. The suggested donation is $6 and the first 100 people get to keep the bowl, said Elizabeth Jones, also a seventh-grader.

“Friends of Rachel is about stopping bullying in the school and helping other people — it’s what we started working on first,” Jones said.

Her classmate Andrew Todd said it was easy making the leap from stopping bullying to fighting hunger right here in central Maine. The result is the same, he said — helping people.

 

The Friends of Rachel club arose from an anti-bullying presentation called Rachel’s Challenge at the school in January 2011, said teacher Kelly Hanscom, who helped coordinate Empty Bowls. Rachel Scott was the first student killed at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

The middle school group started by raising money for 26 Thanksgiving baskets, than went on to raise money for Christmas gifts, Hanscom said. The progression was a natural one to helping food banks in Canaan, Cornville/Athens, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan, and St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen in Skowhegan, she said.

“Each week in Rachel’s Challenge they have to answer a question about different topics, always about being a better person, compassion, helping others,” Hanscom said. “They were asked, ‘If you saw a person that looked homeless, that was the stereotype of homeless on the street, what would you do’?”

The sad answer was that people in Skowhegan and elsewhere locally probably would not help that person, she said. They would be too afraid of the person or too shy or nervous to help personally.

Empty Bowls was created to help fill that void, Hanscom and the students said.

The group contacted Yvonne Bollenbacher, a 2006 Skowhegan High School graduate who operates Skowhegan Pottery in the Somerset Grist Mill. There the students made the bowls, painted them and fired them in the kiln.

The soup will be made in the middle school kitchen during Rachel’s Challenge on Friday, the day of the Empty Bowl dinner. Live jazz dinner music will be provided by Brian Richmond.

For ticket information, contact Hanscom at 474-3339 or [email protected]

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or: [email protected]