Manatee County gourmet soup lovers have 2 'Empty Bowls' events from which to choose

BRADENTON -- Manatee County gourmet soup lovers can now rejoice.

The annual "Empty Bowls" luncheons to benefit The Food Bank of Manatee have returned, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at 8131 Main St., Lakewood Ranch, and at the same time Friday at Renaissance on 9th, 1816 Ninth St. W., Bradenton.

"This is our opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of hunger in the community," said Kristen Theisen, the Food Bank's vice president of development.

The Food Bank of Manatee is the largest hunger-relief organization in Manatee County, providing food for more than 100 local social service agencies, food pantries and soup kitchens, as well as qualifying families for help in emergency situations, Theisen said.

Every year, talented potters combine with creative chefs from area restaurants to fight hunger, she said.

Tickets are $25 each and include a handmade ceramic bowl to keep, bread from Publix, a Grandma's Goodie cookie, and, of course, a bowl of gourmet soup prepared by area restaurants.

"The money goes for items we don't often get donated, and expenses to take our trucks to pick up donated food, as well as just restocking the shelves," Theisen said, noting last year's event raised about $20,000.

There will be 1,500 bowls available by such ceramic artists as Taylor Robenalt, Barbara Gabbe-Harris, The Copper Moon Studio in the Village of the Arts, Eileen Van Lieshout Pottery in the Village of the Arts and Terrie McNamara from MTM Pottery in Sun City, said Marissa Bressi, special events coordinator for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee.

"For $25 you can pick out your own bowl, handcrafted by the community," she said. "We will have four to five gallons of soup donated."

Diners may try three samples before settling on a ceramic container, Theisen said.

Tickets may be purchased online at foodbankofmanatee.org, by calling 941-749-0100 or at the door.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.