SOUTH KINGSTOWN—This Thursday, Monsignor Clarke School will host its annual Empty Bowls Dinner, with proceeds going to the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale.

The Empty Bowls Project began 25 years ago in Michigan, and has since grown into an international grassroots effort to raise money and awareness toward the fight to end hunger. Thursday’s event at Monsignor Clarke marks the school’s second year hosting—and third year helping out with—an empty bowls event.

“I always tell my students that there might be clients of Jonnycake Center there who can’t afford a meal,” said Buff Wessman, a middle school religion teacher and service club director at Monsignor Clarke School. “We’re all eating together, on equal ground.”

Wessman said she hopes the event serves as an eye-opener for her students.

“A lot of the time I think when [students] think of hunger and poverty, they’re thinking about Africa,” she said. “They’re not thinking about South County, they’re not thinking about Peace Dale. They can be part of the solution to this problem that’s going on right in front of us—that’s what I want my students to get out of it.” 

The bowls being used during Thursday’s dinner come from several local artisans, as well as from a “bowl creation” event held by St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Narragansett. The Prout School donated several bowls as well, and Monsignor Clarke students also had the opportunity to create bowls through Narragansett-based Create Color Studio. 

“They came to our school twice to do bowl painting events,” Wessman said, “which allowed students to be the artisans—plus, it gets them in the door because they want to come back to get their bowls.”

In total, there are around 200 bowls. 

All food — which will include soups, breads and desserts— was donated by local businesses, including Sweet Cakes Bakery, Belmont Market, Bluebird Café, Panera Bread and Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale Programs Director David Olguin.

“Empty Bowls is a wonderful family-friendly event designed to raise both awareness and funds to fight hunger in our community,” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, in an email. “We are so grateful to the students at Monsignor Clarke and to our dedicated volunteers and businesses who donate their time and food.”

The event is pay-what-you-can, and attendees are welcome to take their bowls home. 

“So you go home with an empty bowl,” Wessman said, “with the awareness that some people’s bowls are always empty.”

Wessman added that she’s excited to have Monsignor Clarke students perform music during the event. 

The event is open to the public, and will be held this Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Monsignor Clarke School.

“I think students of South County live in a little bit of a bubble,” Wessman said, “and sometimes we’re focused on things that we want and don’t realize how close our neighbors are to us who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”


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