Greg Hale and Mica Strother with James Hayes bowls available at The Full Moon and Gallery 26.

The Arkansas Foodbank is fighting the good fight against hunger with its annual fundraising event, Empty Bowls. For 16 years, this event has helped the nonprofit support its 450 partner agencies in 33 counties statewide. The money raised at the event will go directly towards combating hunger in Arkansas.

Power couple Mica Strother and Greg Hale take the charge as this year's event chairs. Strother is the director of development for the Arkansas Razorback Foundation and Hale is a partner in the Markham Group. Strother says the couple was inspired to become part of the event after attending last year and being impressed by all that the organization does to help alleviate hunger in Arkansas.

"The name speaks to the unique focus of the event,” Strother says. "The Empty Bowls event is actually widespread throughout the Foodbank communities nationwide. Each Foodbank puts their own individual spin on the event, but the commonality is the idea of drawing attention to ‘empty bowls’ across the nation. It’s pretty special to have a collection of events across the country benefitting the same mission, but unique in each community.”

By the Numbers:

1 in 5 Arkansans
struggle to provide food
for their families

25% of children
have limited access to food

280,000+ Arkansans are served by the Foodbank

22 million meals were distributed by the Foodbank in 2017 alone

5 meals are provided
for every dollar donated

This year, Empty Bowls will honor Mike and Ginger Beebe. Coincidentally, Strother worked for the former governor for 13 years and experienced firsthand how much he and the former first lady of Arkansas fought to curb hunger within the state.

"Ginger brought a lot of attention and education around [childhood hunger coupled with childhood obesity in Arkansas]," Strother says. "In 2010, they joined forces with other community partners in launching the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign. Since its launch, the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign has become a successful public-private partnership working to end childhood hunger in Arkansas."

Empty Bowls is incredibly important to the Arkansas Foodbank’s ability to provide food to hungry Arkansans. The major fundraising event provides funding for programs such as Food for Families, Food for Seniors and Food for Kids. The Food for Kids program provides for children who are not sure where their next meal is coming from on weeknights, weekends, during holidays and on summer vacation.

After researching possible solutions to this problem, the Arkansas Foodbank came up with a variety of programs to fight hunger. The Backpack Program sends hungry kids home with backpacks full of food on the weekends, while school pantries are located on campus or nearby for kids to stop by and pick up food. The After School Snack and Meals Program teams up with local churches and nonprofits to offer tutoring opportunities along with a healthy snack or meal.

To fuel these programs and many more, Empty Bowls is giving guests the opportunity to Feed the Need. During the evening, guests can contribute a donation that will then be matched by special donors who have pre-committed to match what is raised during the night-of "ask."

"Our hope is to raise an additional $20,000 that night to help families, children and seniors throughout central and south Arkansas,” Strother says. "Believe it or not, that amount would provide 100,000 meals to hungry Arkansans."

Empty Bowls
May 11, 7 p.m.
Robinson Center