Garner Cleveland Record

Vandora Springs art students raise over 1,500 items for local non-profit

Vandora Springs fourth graders exchange their art bowls with food items they donated to Garner Area Ministries
Vandora Springs fourth graders exchange their art bowls with food items they donated to Garner Area Ministries

The Vandora Springs Elementary fourth-grade students in James Hunt’s art club received more than 1,500 food items for their annual Empty Bowls project Thursday.

The “Empty Bowls” project helps raise awareness for those who don’t have much to eat.

Each year his students use their artistic talents to create clay bowls. The bowls are then sold in exchange for food, which his class donates to Garner Area Ministries.

The students laid the bowls out on the table, and parents and community members picked out which bowls they wanted. As the students received the food items, they excitedly packed them in boxes, which were delivered to Garner Area Ministries Saturday.

“It’s wonderful. I’ve been over there to see there bowls and I think it’s a great project the kids are doing,” said Carol Oriel, the president of the board of directors for GAM. “And we appreciate the food we get from them.”

The food will come in hand for the non-profit, after they were robbed of $5,000 last month.

Some of the food will also go to Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh.

This was the 10th year the art club at Vandora Springs participated in the project. The club usually raises on average 1,500 cans of food each year, Hunt said.

“Since we will have some more food items coming in, I would guess we would be very close to 2,000 items by the end of next week!” he said.

The Empty Bowls program is an international outreach, started by a teacher named John Harton. The concept was to invite guests to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Hunt tweaked it a bit and created his own project.

Instead of inviting guests for soup, Hunt asks members of the community to bring in 20 non-perishable food items. In exchange, they will get a bowl that his 4th grade students make. The bowls serve as a reminder that the recipient gave back to the community.

Hunt led it at his previous school Lincoln Heights in Fuquay-Varina before arriving at Vandora Springs.

Over the years he has raised about 52,000 food items.

According to, North Carolina has one the highest percentage in the U.S. of children under 18 years of age who are food insecure on a regular basis. About one in four children are food-insecure or lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

In Wake County, 52,480 students qualify for free or reduced lunch. That is 34 percent of all Wake County students.

Garner schools, in particular, have among the highest numbers of students on free or reduced lunch in the county.

“I think it’s great for the students to be able to give back,” Troy Peuler, the Vandora Springs Elementary principal, said. “They get to learn how to be community members.”

Peuler said it’s improtant to show that the students are learning more than just their ABC’s.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland