The day of the first Empty Bowls fundraiser in Highland Park the lead organizer of the event got kind of a late start setting up. She had a full day of high school to attend to first.
We’ve previously featured Highland Park High School junior Namrita Narula in this section for the organization she founded in her freshman year, Seeds of Knowledge. She’s responsible for the vibrant parking meters disguised as oversized vegetables around Highland Park. All change dropped into those meters is used to purchase fresh produce for the Moraine Township Food Pantry.
When Narula heard about the Empty Bowls Project, an international grass roots effort to raise money and awareness in the fight to end hunger, she found another avenue to tackle the injustice of hungry local families.
“This is an issue I didn’t feel like enough of my peers knew about,” Narula says. “Also, the lack of nutrition. We do see a lot of pantries and organizations that work to combat hunger, but the aspect of nutrition is often overlooked. That’s why when I do events and fundraisers like these, I want the money to go toward purchasing fresh produce.”
Attendees of the Empty Bowls Project walked into the HPHS cafeteria on October 20 to see 800 handmade ceramic bowls lined up in a circle. The bowls were handmade by more than 800 elementary school students from Braeside, Lincoln, Ravinia, and Red Oak schools, and Highland Park Bank & Trust donated the money to cover all of the glazing costs. The bowls are meant to remind guests of the many empty bowls facing families who experience hunger.
Paying for entry entitled guests to pick a bowl of their choice and they were welcome to all-you-can-eat soup provided by Tamales, Bella Via, Country Kitchen, Hel’s Kitchen Catering, Phoenicia Mediterranean Cuisine, Beelow’s, and Once Upon a Bagel. Green Paper Products donated disposable bowls for the soup. The Bent Fork Bakery, Sunset Foods, Jewel, Breadsmith, Food Evolution, and Heinen’s donated dessert. Z Baking donated 700 bread rolls. ReadyRefresh by Nestle donated bottled water.
Narula didn’t stop there. She started calling local businesses, stores, friends, and family to gather up 20 items for a silent auction. Prizes ranged from gift cards to Bulls tickets to a trip to Puerto Rico.
Throughout the event guests enjoyed playlists from the Highland Park DJ Club, the HPHS Jazz Band, and choral singers.
“It was really nice to see the community come together for the cause,” Narula says.
Narula first heard about the event in April of this year, worked on organizing it and rounding up volunteers and donors throughout her summer vacation, and hoped to spur enough interest to generate $3,000 for Moraine Township Food Pantry. Between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on October 20, the event saw more than 500 guests and raised $9,450.
After staying late to clean up the HPHS cafeteria after the event, Narula took the leftover soup and rolls and donated them to Glen Oaks Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Northbrook and Interfaith Action of Evanston.
With so many hours dedicated to helping others in the community, I asked what Narula does with her free time.
“I co-founded a club at my school called Girl Up, that’s all about empowering women both in our community and in developing countries,” Narula says. “It’s part of the larger United Nations Foundation Organization. So, I’m really into female empowerment and ending the gender disparities that exist. I’m in a few more school clubs related to science and business. And, of course, lots of homework.”
Has she ever turned on the television?
“I like Shark Tank,” she says.
I’ll bet. She can finally see some people as ambitious as her.
Do you know a teen doing outstanding work in the fields of charity, science, arts, business, or education? Send your suggestion for Standout Student to [email protected]