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Students, volunteers to raise money for food pantries

Empty Bowls of Champaign County raised more than $13,000 in its first year for local food pantries, and organizers hope to top that amount this year by $1,000.

Students from Urbana University and other volunteers made and designed about 700 bowls for the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties. The fundraiser is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Urbana University Student Center and the goal is to raise $14,000.

“It’s feeding the hungry,” said Debbie Loffing, a potter who has worked with volunteers to make bowls. “It’s for the people that have lost their jobs and for whatever reason don’t have money to feed their families.”

Community members who attend can purchase a meal for $15, which includes soup and bread donated by several area restaurants. Residents keep the bowl at the end of the meal, said Dave Faulkner, a program development administrator for Champaign Residential Services Inc. who helped organize the event.

The money supports the food bank, which provides aid to 11 agencies including food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in Champaign County, said Anna Plataniotis, community engagement supervisor for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Champaign County agencies provided more than 220,000 meals to local residents from January to June 2012. Overall, the food bank collects and distributes more than 526,000 pounds of food annually to area pantries and soup kitchens.

Local companies are sought out to sponsor the event, and Plataniotis said the agency raised more than $6,000 through its sponsors last year, Plataniotis said. To become a sponsor, call (937) 325-8715.

“The Champaign County community has just embraced the event,” she said.