Hunger is a problem in Greene County. According to Greene County Food Security Partnership’s website, in 2010, “the poverty rate for children in Greene County is 20.4 percent (or 1,588 individuals under the age of 18), with 2,090 children able to be identified as food insecure (25.9 percent of population under 18).” While this problem is not solvable overnight, there are efforts being made to help those who do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Empty Bowls Greene County is an event where the community comes together to benefit the Greene County Weekend Food Program. The fifth annual Empty Bowls event occurred this weekend at the National Guard Readiness Center April 8.
Waynesburg University senior Kenny Knouse, who was a coordinator for the event, said he is glad to make a difference in the community, even though he does not directly interact with those he is helping.
“It’s good to know that something good is happening in the community,” Knouse said.
Doors opened at 11 a.m. Soup was served and the auctions opened right away. Sweet potato, black bean, wedding, loaded backed potato, French onion, beef vegetable and broccoli cheddar soup were available to those in attendance.
Gift baskets from local businesses and ceramics from Winegar Pottery, and Waynesburg University students and Andrew Heisey, chairperson for the Fine Arts Department at Waynesburg University, filled the auction table.
The Waynesburg University Bonner Scholars hosted the event, which was coordinated by Knouse and his classmates Amanda Groft and Sydney Green.
Knouse, who has been involved with the Empty Bowls program since his senior year of high school at Southern Columbia High School in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, is involved in different organizations and programs in the community.
The history major spends several hours a week at the Greene County Historical Society and understands the importance of a close community.
“It’s the number one thing [to me],” Knouse said on the importance of community. “Especially being in college, it’s important to grow a big network and to be actively involved in not only your schoolwork but also the community as well, that way you can create a really good, long-lasting relationship, and a memorable one at that.”
Upon arriving at Waynesburg University as a freshman in 2014, Knouse got involved with Empty Bowls Greene County, as the Bonner Program requires students to serve with issue based programs.
Knouse, Groft and Green have been busy coordinating the event since the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic school year, when they started planning and making ceramic bowls.
Waynesburg University students collectively made about 100 bowls for the event, and had bowls from the last several years donated to this year’s event as well.
Heisey was throwing pottery during the event, showing members of the community how the students made the bowls for the event.
State House Rep. Rick Saccone, R-39, was in attendance of the event and even practiced throwing pottery, under Heisey’s instructions.
“That was great, that was so much fun,” Saccone said after finishing turning his once ball of clay into a well-molded bowl.
Saccone said he enjoyed his first Empty Bowls event, and admired the initiative.
“I am really impressed,” Saccone said. “I’m impressed with all the community, all the students who are involved – I love that – how it contributes to hunger in the area. It was very inspiring for me to come to this. And I have to say, the soups are dynamite. I’m not saying that just because I am here, but that is the best wedding soup I have ever had.”
Saccone said he enjoys taking part in events around the area and hopes to return to Greene County for more events soon.
“It’s good to be out in the community and to get to meet a lot of great people here in Greene County,” Saccone said.
He continued to say the engagement of everyone from the community was crucial.
“It’s always good to get community engagement to help solve a problem,” Saccone said. “Hunger is a problem and we want to get everybody involved that we can. It’s students, it’s community leaders, it’s citizens.”
Betty Stammerjohn, executive director Community Foundation of Greene County, said the key to this event is that the problem is brought to people’s attention, as the event creates awareness of the ongoing problem of hunger in the county.
The Community Foundation works as the fiscal sponsor for Empty Bowls, however, Stammerjohn said her input was not needed because the university students went above and beyond when planning the event.
“If the students didn’t do this fundraiser, it wouldn’t happen,” Stammerjohn said. “Because for them to be able to do this, I don’t have the resources at the Community Foundation to do this, so to have these students do this where it can benefit five different school districts…otherwise you would have five different school districts competing with one-another to try to raise that money. It’s invaluable, it really is.”