TUPELO • Hundreds of people came together to eat and serve food for the 22nd annual Empty Bowls Luncheon at Tupelo Furniture Market Building V on Wednesday.
Organized by the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, the goal this year was to raise $50,000 to feed hungry people in the Tupelo area.
Soup from 57 local restaurants was served to attendees at the Tupelo Furniture Market, the Salvation Army Canteen food truck in Fairpark or via curbside pickup, soup co-chair Martha Bland said.
She works with two other co-chairs, Lisa Murphree and Jane Allsbrow, to organize restaurant donors and make sure the event comes together each year.
Soup, bread and water is served to draw attention to hunger in the community. It’s probably more than some hungry people have to eat in a day, Bland said.
The Tupelo Salvation Army served 123,729 meals in 2019, but Bland said that number was much lower than usual due to kitchen renovations. She expects to serve closer to 200,000 meals in 2020.
In addition to trying delicious soups from local vendors, Empty Bowls attendees receive a pottery bowl made by the Salvation Army Mud Ladies group. The women meet twice each week throughout the year to produce about 2,500 bowls for the event.
The luncheon also included booths from local vendors, a silent auction and bake sale.
Empty Bowls chairperson Kristi Hillhouse said she expected upwards of 250 volunteers to help out on Wednesday.
“This cannot be run without everybody,” Hillhouse said. “The patrons that buy the tickets, restaurants that donate the soup, the ladies that make the bowls, every volunteer that comes out.”
Jessica Yielding and her mother, Marsha Jackson, attended the luncheon together this year for the third time.
They enjoy trying different soups while supporting the Salvation Army and all it does for less fortunate people in the community.
“You never know when you might be in that position and need that help,” Yielding said.
Raj Kiran, a pastor and director of Rhema Bible Training College in Hyderabad, India, attended the event with James Richardson, Belden United Methodist Church co-pastor, and Don Simmons, director of pastoral care at North Mississippi Medical Center, whom he is visiting.
It was Kiran’s first time in Tupelo and Mississippi, and he said he was inspired to see so many community leaders, churches and local folks taking action to help their neighbors.
“It’s about love and care towards your fellow beings who do not have either homes or food, and you care for them,” Kiran said. “I’m amazed at how many people have come, taking off from their jobs to visit this place, buy the tickets and then donate towards this event.”
Richardson agreed, adding “This is probably where humanity is at its best.”