TAMPA — About 700,000 people are hungry on any given day in the 10-county region Feeding America Tampa Bay serves.
Food insecurity is especially huge among the elderly and children, said Thomas Mantz, executive director of the charity. That means they have don’t have access to enough food to maintain a healthy life.
About 14.5 percent of Americans were food insecure in 2012, and single women with children made up the largest group, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.
The Empty Bowls Luncheon taking place downtown in Lykes Gaslight Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday is a way to highlight the issue.
“The simplicity of the program matches the simplicity of the problem,” Mantz said. “We’ll have a few different guests, and I will speak. The luncheon isn’t heavy on words, but enough that we can convey the importance of the issue.”
For $10, guests will receive a clay bowl handcrafted by a local student, southwestern carrot soup prepared by the culinary students at Chamberlain High, and fresh bread prepared and donated by La Segunda Central Bakery. For dessert, they’ll get an apple.
Some attend the event year after year, said Debbi McCarthy, Feeding America Tampa Bay’s director of marketing and communications.
“We know people who have total collections of these little bowls in their offices. We’ve heard people use them as place settings at Thanksgiving, as stocking stuffers for their friends,” she said. “They scatter them around their house and office.”
Each bowl is a small but colorful reminder that not everyone has enough food, she said.
This year, guests can choose from hundreds of bowls, including more this year fashioned by high school students. McCarthy said it is an outstanding collection, and people get to peruse all of the bowls and select the one they want.
Each year, more schools participate, which helps underscore hunger among children, Mantz said. The hunger issue with children, he said, “is substantial, long-term and potentially devastating.”
There will be 100 tables set up in the park, and the food will be served out of two Wicked ‘Wiches food trucks, one staffed by owner Bryan Goodell and his crew and the other by the Chamberlain culinary students.
The $10 admission price will help Feeding America Tampa Bay purchase 70 full meals for the needy. A $100 table will pay for 700 meals, according to the charity.
Tickets will be available at the event, McCarthy said. To learn more, visit feedingamericatampabay.org.