Empty Bowls FAQs

Empty BowlsThis year marks the 14th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for Urban Ministries of Durham. Not only is it our largest fundraising event, but it is an opportunity to feel the solidarity of our community working together toward our mission to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need.

Where did Empty Bowls get started?

In 1990 a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem.  They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive.  What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal.  Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world.  By the following year the originators had developed this concept into Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that fight hunger. UMD held its first Empty Bowls event in 2007. We outgrew the Durham Armory and had to move across the street to the Durham Convention Center. Today nearly 1000 people attend Empty Bowls each year raising well over $100,000.

What happens at Empty Bowls?

Each year 15 of Durham’s foodie-favorite restaurants donate 20 gallons of soup for a massive soup competition doled out in 3 oz. samples. A select group of local celebrities make up a Judges panel where they pick a Judge’s Choice winner. Attendees “vote” for their favorite soup with their dollars for the coveted People’s Choice Award.  While event-goers no longer scoop soup out of pottery bowls, buying an upgraded ticket can guarantee you a chance to take home a locally crafted ceramic or wooden bowl. Most folks enjoy milling around the Convention Center while sipping soup, nibbling on bread and dessert, picking out or admiring bowls, and catching up with friends.

What types of tickets are available?

Soup tickets ($25) are basic entry tickets. Soup and bowl tickets ($50) allow you to sample soup and pick out one of the regular ceramic bowls. Hot Tickets ($75) get you early bird entry to pick out your bowl 30 minutes before the crowd hits. And Premier Tickets ($125) gets you early entry to pick out a professionally-crafted, high-end bowl. Kids 6 and under get in free! Tickets will go on sale January 31st on Eventbrite: https://emptybowls2020.eventbrite.com

Eventbrite charges user fees, is there a way to get around that?

Using Eventbrite is a critical event management tool for a small team—2 full time staff running multiple operations—to sell multiple ticket types to 1000 people and smoothly check-in ticket holders into the event on the big day. The goal of Empty Bowls is to raise as much money as possible to help those receiving assistance at UMD. Without attendees paying the user fees, UMD would have to pay those costs out of pocket. Fees are never fun, but consider it another important way to support UMD.

Ticket prices increased this year, why is that?

This year we wanted to focus on maximizing the increasing popularity of Empty Bowls to raise even more money for our mission. We’re not just feeding the community the night of Empty Bowls, we’re working to raise enough money to cover the nearly 250,000 meals we serve to hungry and homeless people each year in our Community Café.

Can I deduct the cost of tickets on my taxes?

Yes, but you must deduct the cost of any direct benefits you receive (ie. the soup and bowl). Tax deductible amounts for each ticket are as follows: Soup only $17, Regular $25, Hot $50, Premier $62.

What other changes should I expect this year?

Be on the lookout this year for re-usable totes from our presenting sponsor, The Forest at Duke. Use the bag to help carry your bowl and other goodies picked up at the event, and then bring it back to UMD with items needed in our Food Pantry. Each month, UMD provides free groceries and clothing to over 500 eligible households. The overwhelming majority of these households are young families. Recipients are given re-usable bags to carry their food which serves as a reminder that their community is here to help feed them when they have a need.