The late Alan Steinberg stands behind some of the bowls created for an earlier annual Empty Bowl Dinner.
Courtesy photo
The late Alan Steinberg stands behind some of the bowls created for an earlier annual Empty Bowl Dinner.

20th Empty Bowls Dinner dedicated to the memory of Alan Steinberg

PUTNEY — The southern Vermont Empty Bowls steering committee is planning the 20th annual Empty Bowls Dinner this fall - benefitting Foodworks, the region's heavily utilized food redistribution program, operated by Groundworks Collaborative.

The local Empty Bowls effort was started in 2003 by Alan Steinberg-who died earlier this year-and a team from Brattleboro Clayworks, planning the first annual Empty Bowls Dinner in October 2004 with the slogan: "Believe that we here on Earth can learn to feed each other."

Steinberg learned about the Empty Bowls Project that was started by ceramics teachers at a high school in Michigan. The concept has grown and evolved since 1990 all over the country and worldwide - raising tens of millions of dollars globally, one bowl of soup at a time.

This year's dinner will be served on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m., at Landmark College in Putney. Diners purchase a ticket to the dinner and choose a handmade bowl to keep from one of the hundreds made by local potters. The menu consists of soup donated by roughly 12 area restaurants, rounded out with local bread and cheese - all to help stock the shelves at Foodworks, which served over 4,000 local people last year alone.

"The dinner is a fun and family-friendly evening celebrating local potters, restaurants, and businesses coming together to raise vital funds for the important work we do at Foodworks," Libby Bennett, Groundworks' director of development and communications, said in a news release. "This year, we are remembering and appreciating Alan Steinberg's years of shaping this event and the impact it has had on the Foodworks program as we know it today."

"Alan regularly made what he called 'Blessing Bowls,'" said long-time Steering Committee member Naomi Lindenfeld. "He talked about infusing each one with his blessings while making it."

"The empty bowl is so emblematic for us," said Groundworks' Executive Director Josh Davis. "We love the way this event brings out so many people in our community to support not only our food distribution program, but also a love of the arts and local food. It's a simple and delicious meal in a beautiful bowl to take home - which means there's something meaningful in it for everyone, whether you're there for the bowls or the mission."

"We are thrilled to continue offering an in-person dinner this year," said event co-Chair Sara Ryan. "Rather than having two seatings like we have in the past, we'll be holding one open seating from 5 to 7 p.m."

"Those who are unable to join us in person for the dinner can - like last year - purchase individual bowls in local storefronts," added event co-Chair Beth Kiendl.

Last year's Empty Bowls raised just over $28,000 in sponsorships, dinner tickets, and bowl sales. This year, organizers hope to outraise years past, as now, due to inflation, supply chain challenges, and the increasing cost of food and fuel, Foodworks is seeing a marked increase in the need for supplemental food.

"We continue to see new people accessing our program every month. In July 2023, Foodworks recorded visits from 84 new households," explained Foodworks Director Andrew Courtney. "The high cost of groceries is often cited by our shoppers as pinching their budgets."

"In an effort to meet this increased demand, we have added staff at Foodworks in recent months to expand our Fresh Rescue efforts," said Courtney. "Rescuing perfectly good, fresh food from grocery and convenience stores before it can go to waste is labor intensive, but in addition to addressing food insecurity in our region, we are also able to remove a tremendous amount of waste from our local food systems."

Foodworks is open for shopping hours on Monday through Friday each week. Patrons are able to choose their own groceries from what the program has on offer at 141 Canal St. in Brattleboro.

Empty Bowls Dinner tickets and bowls are on sale both in Brattleboro and Putney. Bowls and tickets are available at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Everyone's Books, The Shoe Tree, Zephyr Designs, and the Putney Food Co-op. Bowls are available for sale at The Kitchen Sync and the Putney General Store. Dinner tickets can also be purchased online at

Adult tickets are $30, youth tickets are $15 for ages 7–15, and children 6 and under are admitted free. Each bowl or ticket sold allows Foodworks to provide a family of five with supplemental food for two weeks, as the program purchases wholesale pallets of food from the Vermont Foodbank to supplement donations and Fresh Rescue items.

"It's such an impactful event for Foodworks," said Groundworks' Development Coordinator Julianne Mills. "We are grateful to all who buy bowls and dinner tickets and to all of the potters, restaurants, florists, bakeries, cheese producers, sponsors, and storefront ticket and bowl sellers, as well as to Landmark College for hosting us. Everyone comes together to make this event a success so we can continue to be there for our neighbors who come to us for help."

For more information, email [email protected] or call 802-302-8302.

In addition to Foodworks, Groundworks Collaborative operates the Groundworks Drop-In Center and Overnight Shelter on South Main Street, while also providing housing navigation and retention services to over 250 additional households. To learn more, visit

This Special section item was submitted to The Commons.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates