HIGHLAND PARK – If 16-year-old Highland Park philanthropist Namrita Narula served alphabet soup at The Empty Bowls Fundraiser, she would be stirring in a lot of extra Cs.
“The Empty Bowls Fundraiser combines community, creativity, and compassion to help fight hunger,” said Namrita about her most recent Seeds of Knowledge project in Highland Park and Highwood.
“I hope to raise over $3,000 to purchase fresh produce for the Moraine Township Food Pantry,” said Namrita. “While raising money to combat local hunger is one of the goals of the fundraiser, I also hope to raise awareness about the food insecurity that exists in our community.”
At the Empty Bowls Fundraiser on October 20, “attendees will purchase a one-of-a-kind ceramic bowl for a small donation and enjoy a simple, delicious meal of soup, bread and dessert donated by local restaurants,” said Namrita. “Each empty bowl is meant to remind guests of the many “empty bowls” that exist in the lives of those who experience hunger.” The event will be held in the HPHS cafeteria and all proceeds will benefit the Moraine Township Food Pantry.
The Empty Bowls Fundraiser is hosted by Seeds of Knowledge, a community service project that Namrita founded In March 2015.
About 800 students from Braeside, Lincoln, Ravinia, and Red Oak Elementary Schools have been hand crafting ceramic bowls in their art classes for The Empty Bowls Fundraiser. Namrita said she’s been working closely with art teachers Kristen Pressman and Sharon Steckel at Lincoln Elementary School.
“Without Ms. Pressman and Ms. Steckel this event would not have been possible. When the art teachers approached the principals at each school, they were very supportive. In addition to teaching the students how to make the ceramic bowls, they have been talking about the importance of giving back and the issue of hunger in our community,” she added.
Namrita explained that a large part of The Empty Bowls Fundraiser is sitting down as a community for a simple meal. Seven local restaurants and catering companies have generously donated the soup for the event: Once Upon A Bagel, Beelow’s, Phoenicia, Tamales, Bella Via, Hel’s Kitchen, and Country Kitchen.
The Bent Fork Bakery, Sunset Foods, Jewel-Osco, Food Evolution, Heinen’s, and Breadsmith will be donating the dessert and bread. Ready Refresh by Nestlé donated water bottles, Green Paper Products donated the disposable soup bowls, and Uline donated spoons, plates, and napkins. Any leftover food from the event will be donated to Interfaith Action of Evanston, she added.
Namrita said when she read about The Empty Bowls Project online, she was “immediately inspired to bring this international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger to the Highland Park community.”
The Empty Bowls Fundraiser has been done in Evanston and Lake Forest, but this is a first time event for Highland Park. “Hunger is a community-wide challenge affecting more people than we might realize,” said Namrita.
Namrita began battling that challenge before she even reached high school. According to an earlier article in DailyNorthShore.com., she helped plan Elm Place Middle School’s December annual Day of Giving event when families in need collect canned food items, books, toys, clothes, and other items organized by the students. Her mission continued at HPHS.
The summer after Namrita founded the Seeds of Knowledge in 2015, she harvested and donated 93 pounds of fresh produce from the Seeds of Knowledge’s plot at the Moraine Township Food Pantry garden, In November of the same year, the then 15-year-old also launched the Feed The Meters, Feed Your Neighbor program in downtown Highland Park. The program enables anyone to deposit spare change in decorative fund-raising meters to help those in need.
Currently, Namrita’s efforts have accumulated in donations of over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to the Moraine Township Food Pantry through Seeds of Knowledge and the “Feed The Meters, Feed Your Neighbors” initiative. Two colorful meters encouraging healthy eating choices were installed; one on Central Avenue in front of Port Clinton Square and the other next to Michael’s Hot Dogs on Second Street.
Namrita said the carrot meter that was previously on Central Avenue has been moved outside of Jamba Juice on Green Bay Road, and the green meter with fruits and vegetables painted on it has been moved outside of Beelow’s on Second Street. “I also have a third meter going in this month. It is shaped as a giant green pea-pod and will be installed in Sunset Foods,” Namrita added.
The Empty Bowls Fundraiser will be held on Thursday, October 20 at the HPHS cafeteria from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. The event will include live entertainment and raffles too. For more information contact Namrita Narula at [email protected] or call 847/312-5262.