Empty Bowl Dinner on Friday to raise funds for Berkshire Food Project

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NORTH ADAMS — Friday's biennial Empty Bowl Dinner will serve as a reminder that not everyone's bowl is always full.

All proceeds from the fundraising dinner, which includes seatings at 5 and 7 p.m., go directly to the nonprofit Berkshire Food Project. Based in the First Congregational Church at the corner of Church and Main streets, the Berkshire Food Project provides free meals to anyone and everyone who walks through its doors, Monday through Friday, always at noon.

In 2015, volunteers and staff at the Berkshire Food Project dished out more than 30,000 free meals to Northern Berkshire residents.

This year's Empty Bowl Dinner, the 12th edition, will be held at the First Congregational Church on Main Street in Williamstown. The meal, which costs $30, consists of soups and bread donated by local restaurants. Once the meal is finished, diners are allowed to bring home the bowl, which is also donated by a local ceramic artist.

"It's a great fundraiser; it's who we are," said Berkshire Food Project Executive Director Valerie Schwarz. "It's simple; it's just bread and soup."

With everything from the food to the bowl donated, the event is a massive undertaking for the restaurants, potters and volunteers. One of the nonprofit's board members even scouted Craigslist recently in a search for pottery, texting one ceramic artist requesting a donation. The artist obliged.

Other than Schwarz and two part-time employees, the entire operation runs with core group of about 10 weekly volunteers. With such small overhead, the money raised from the Empty Bowl dinner and other donations can directly provide for food for the less fortunate in the North Adams area.

"Our community really supports us in a big way," Schwarz said. "Private donations from the community are probably our biggest source of income."

On Friday, for example, the meal provided to the lunch guests consisted of fresh mango and pineapple, guacamole and chips, a salad, pasta with meat sauce, and brownies for dessert.

"We don't just serve blobs of unidentifiable food things," Schwarz said. "We want to treat them with dignity and want their health to actually benefit from what we're doing here, and I think we're achieving that even with a small budget."

Restaurants participating in this year's events include Williams College Dining Services, Gramercy Bistro, Olympic Pizza, Wild Oats, Eat to Total Health, Zucchinis, the Chef's Hat, Gala, Perra Mediterranean Bistro, Mezze, Bounti Fare, Renee's Diner, Grazie, the Williams Inn, Boston Seafood, Buxton School and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.

If you go ...

What: Berkshire Food Project's biennial Empty Bowl Dinner

When: Friday; servings at 5 and 7 p.m.

Where: First Congregational Church, Church and Main streets, North Adams

Tickets: $30. Call the Berkshire Food Project at 413-664-7378 or visit Wild Oats in Williamstown. Information: www.berkshirefoodproject.org


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