Some beautiful ceramic bowls by Mark Campbell | Photos provided by Campbell


If you like helping out your community, or you just really like soup (who doesn’t, right?) you might want to check out Empty Bowls, a fundraising event happening June 1 to help raise money for local nonprofits St. Vincent de Paul and the Jefferson Community Center. 

Started in 1990 by two ceramics teachers in Michigan, Empty Bowls is now a worldwide grassroots effort to use art and crafts to help raise money for food-related charities. The local event coordinator Mark Campbell, a longtime potter and St. Vincent de Paul board member, told the Outpost that SVdP held an Empty Bowls event for several years at the Arcata Endeavor, back when it was still open. But this will be the first time the event is being held locally in more than 20 years. 

The exact way the fundraiser is done varies in different places, but the idea is that people can purchase empty bowls and fill them with soup to eat, and all the money raised will go toward feeding those in need. Though in the past, Campbell said, the bowls and soup were purchased as a package deal, this year participants can purchase their ceramic bowls separately and/ or buy a dinner of unlimited soup, salad and bread. The cost for dinner is $20 for one person, $40 per couple or $45 for families, no matter the family size. The proceeds will go toward funding SVdP’s continued efforts to feed the homeless, and toward the Jefferson Community Center’s efforts to build a new kitchen and start offering community cooking classes. 

To get this year’s event going Campbell has been busy working with ceramics artists, who are donating the bowls, and local restaurants and chefs, who are donating the food. The meal will feature soups from more than 20 local restaurants, including Humboldt Bay Bistro, Brett’s Pizzeria, Bayfront Restaurant, Nou Nou’s food truck, the Curry Leaf, the Greene Lily, Vista del Mar, Restaurant 511, Mazottis, Plaza Grill , Jack’s Seafood, Blue Lake Casino, Manzanilla Kitchen, Humboldt Soup Company, Ramones, Opera Alley Bistro, the Eagle House, Big Blue Cafe, Murphys Market, and Caps Food Shack. Plus local bakeries, including Brio and the North Coast Co-op, will be contributing the bread. 

“It’s the only time I can think of where you have 20 restaurants in one building,” Campbell said. 

Bowl donated by ceramic artist George Lea

For the pottery sale, bowls (and a few other ceramics) were donated by Fire Arts, as well as  ceramics students and instructors from both Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods. Campbell also got a few donations through his Facebook group “Clay Buddies,” which he said is the largest pottery club on Facebook (5.2K members.) Of course, being a potter himself, Campbell also made 30 bowls for the event. 

In addition to his love for pottery, Campbell also has a deep love for food and spent 28 years cooking at various restaurants throughout Humboldt. Throughout much of that time Campbell also volunteered at the SVdP free meal, helping prepare and serve food for the hungry. About seven years ago Campbell retired from the food service industry to become a full time potter, but has continued dedicating much of his free time to cooking for SVdP. Campbell said he loves doing the work and wanted to add that SVdP is nearing its 4 millionth free meal served.  

For the event, Campbell will be representing SVdP with his own mulligatawny – an Indian curry that usually features chicken, cream and apples. But Campbell said he is changing it up by subbing out the apples for mandarin oranges. “It used to be really popular in the day, when I cooked professionally,” he said. 

As far as the rest of the menu, Campbell said a few restaurants have shared what they’re making (Blue Lake Casino is doing a clam chowder and Brett’s Pizzeria is contributing a ham and navy bean soup) but mostly, it will be a surprise. Campbell does know that there will be lots of variety (both in pottery and food) and has been thrilled to have so many people want to help contribute to the event. 

“All the work these people put in – these really skilled potters and chefs putting in work for this  common cause – it’s incredible,” Campbell said. 

Empty Bowls will take place on Thursday June 1 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Community Center – 1000 B St, Eureka. You can purchase tickets at this link.