Scholarship fundraiser provides bowls of soup


Janet Lira / The Advocate

Culinary arts major Pei Niee Chuah prepares a bowl of vegan sweet potato soup with coconut milk and decorates it with cilantro, corn and broccoli during the Empty Bowls event on Friday.

By Janet Lira, Advocate Staff

The culinary arts and fine and media arts departments, joined by volunteers from the Bay Area Rescue Mission, raised about $2,000 to help fight hunger and support the mission’s programs on Friday.

The Empty Bowls event took place inside the Aqua Terra Grill from 11:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m.

Bowls were sold for $10 each and, following purchase, a variety of soups were offered in the kitchen with free refills.

Empty Bowls is held every year to support the Bay Area Rescue Mission’s needs to provide for less fortunate people in the West Contra Costa County community.

Faith-based programs are offered through the mission to give people a chance to restart their lives, making a brighter path. Those enrolled in the mission’s program also have the opportunity to take classes in the culinary arts department and can volunteer during its events.

“Volunteers from the mission like being a part of the culinary department because they can build a career from here,” rescue mission volunteer Joe Quinteros said.

This year the event took place in the spring instead of the fall semester, which organizers said made for a better outcome with more money donated to the mission.

“I’m glad we had the event in the spring semester because we can use the money to hold summer events and have more food to give out,” mission Vice President of Programs Jonathan Russell said.

“The outcome is always better than I expect it to be. I’m very pleased with what everyone has done today.”

Russell said one improvement he believes should be made in order for the next empty bowl event to be better would be more advertising about the event in the West County community.

A vegan option created by culinary students, using limited food supply choices, was served at the event to cater to guests’ food preferences and needs. Pozole, clam chowder and Thai noodle soup were some of the other soups served at the event.

All culinary students who took part in Empty Bowls had to be in the kitchen prepping at 7 a.m. to have all the soups ready — about 15 pounds of each soup was prepared.

At the event, culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes and Russell gave short speeches thanking all the guests and volunteers. Sharkes said he was happy that so many people came out to support this event.

Everyone who came out to support us today is contributing to the community, Sharkes said. He also used the time to highlight how well the culinary students are performing in the department.

Many students take classes at CCC, then put in hours working at the rescue mission. Contributing hours to helping people builds experience in the service industry while fostering connections within the community., Sharkes said.

Russell also applauded the effort of students and mission workers and said, “It is a beautiful thing when the community comes together to support each other.”

Culinary student Debby Fisher said, “I’ve been doing this for three years and every year it gets better.” Fisher served soup at the event and helped guide first-year students through the correct way to serve guests.

Second-year culinary student Pei Niee Chuah said, “We have students working today with different levels of experience, so it is good to help each other and learn. It is a learning day or us too.”