Bread of the Mighty food bank to host annual fundraiser in Gainesville

Bread of the Mighty (BOTM) food bank, which aims to fight hunger in four counties in the Gainesville and North Central Florida areas, will hold its annual fundraising event this week.

The food bank is a branch of Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL), which is a member of Feeding America. It hosts an annual fundraiser to provide healthy, quality food and resources to those in its service area: Alachua, Union, Gilchrist and Levy counties.

This year’s fundraiser, dubbed "Empty Bowls," hasn’t been hosted since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now being held for the first time since the merging of BOTM and FNEFL. It serves to raise awareness around food insecurity.

An image from a food bank fundraising event, called Empty Bowls, held by Bread of the Mighty food bank in 2019.
An image from a food bank fundraising event, called Empty Bowls, held by Bread of the Mighty food bank in 2019.

“One of many, many benefits of merging with Feeding Northeast Florida has been the assistance in planning and executing, not just events like this, but at every program level,” said Patrick Dodds, executive director of Bread of the Mighty. “They provide us with additional food and products that we can get out to the community. They’re a much larger organization, and so they have a much larger infrastructure that they are now providing for us to really help increase and improve our effectiveness in the community in fighting hunger.”

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The event will be held September 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hilton University of Florida (UF) Conference Center in Gainesville. Susan King, CEO of FNEFL, as well as legendary Gators football coach Steve Spurrier, creator of The HBC Foundation, will be in attendance.

Hunger Action Month

Empty Bowls is not specific to BOTM – it is a worldwide project that helps to fight hunger on a community level. Freshly prepared soup and bread will be served, which is the standard for most Empty Bowl events across the country.

Student government member Nelly Njeru carves an Empty Bowls design into the bottom of a ceramic bowl she is making for the upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser to raise awareness about world hunger at Santa Fe Community College on Thursday, March 6, 2008.
Student government member Nelly Njeru carves an Empty Bowls design into the bottom of a ceramic bowl she is making for the upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser to raise awareness about world hunger at Santa Fe Community College on Thursday, March 6, 2008.

September is also deemed by Feeding America as Hunger Action Month. This nationwide campaign aims to raise awareness of food insecurity issues and inspire communities to take action on behalf of those facing hunger through donating, volunteering or advocating.

Local high school students from Oak Hall School, Gainesville High School and Buchholz High School will create and donate hundreds of bowls for the event, which serve as a reminder that many people in the community deal with empty bowls – or food insecurity – daily. After the luncheon guests can choose a hand-crafted bowl to bring home.

“We know here locally that one in eight of our neighbors suffers from food insecurity and that means that they honestly don’t know where their next meal may come from,” Dodds said. “They have to make difficult decisions like whether or not they’re going to be able to buy healthy groceries or put gas in their car; they’re going to be able to put dinner on the plate or fill one of their children’s prescriptions. So, it’s a huge need in the community right now.”

Support for the event

Local businesses will also be supporting the fundraising event.

The Plante Shoppe Florist will be donating floral centerpieces, GRACE Marketplace homeless shelter will be making the two soups offered – with and without meat – and Spurrier’s Gridiron Grill will contribute chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Volunteers give away bags of food during the Strike Out Hunger food drive in the parking lot at The Oaks Mall, in Gainesville Nov. 18, 2021. Bread of the Might Food Bank, the Long Foundation and other partners together donated 63,000 pounds of food and 2,000 turkeys to to the giveaway.
Volunteers give away bags of food during the Strike Out Hunger food drive in the parking lot at The Oaks Mall, in Gainesville Nov. 18, 2021. Bread of the Might Food Bank, the Long Foundation and other partners together donated 63,000 pounds of food and 2,000 turkeys to to the giveaway.

Last year, BOTM provided over six million pounds of food in their service area, the majority of that provided in Alachua County. Over 170 nonprofit organizations and partners, such as food pantries, churches and homeless shelters, receive food and essentials from BOTM. The nonprofits then distribute the items in their communities, directly helping those in need.

Anyone of any age can attend the event. Tickets are $60 per person and are available for purchase at breadofthemighty.org/emptybowls. All proceeds go to BOTM food bank.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Bread of the Mighty food bank fundraising event