Help feeding the Valley' Kids Cafe program at Empty Bowl

You eat the good food. You keep the pretty bowl. You help needy children.

That is what the Empty Bowl lunch is all about.

This year, the annual event is Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Northside Recreation Center, 2010 American Way in Columbus. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

Money raised goes to the Kids Cafe program of the Feeding the Valley food bank, which serves a hot afternoon meal to about 1,000 kids per day, five days a week, at 10 locations in the Columbus and Phenix City area and one in Randolph County.

All of the meals are free of charge to the children.

Event director Lisa Castile said last year $9,783 was given to Feeding the Valley and each dollar provides six meals. She said more than $80,000 has been raised since the program began in the early '90s.

Feeding the Valley executive director Frank Sheppard said supporting fundraising events is "critical to the program's survival."

Last year, some 900 people attended. Castile said that is about 300 more than the year before.

"We hope to have 1,000 this year," she said.

The lunch is under the supervision of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department of which Castile is cultural arts program supervisor.

"We cannot say enough about the staff at both Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and the Britt David Cultural Arts Studio. They have worked very hard to make this event the success it is," Sheppard said.

Many of the bowls used are made at the arts studio. Others are donated then painted by adults and children throughout the community at recreation centers and schools.

"We are teaching the kids about community service," Castile said.

Soups and chili, as well as breads and desserts, are provided by various area churches and organizations as well as some restaurants. For example, Subway is providing chicken noodle soup, Chef Lee's Peking Restaurant is providing egg drop soup and Twelfth Street Deli & Catering Company is providing French onion soup.

Publix and Fresh Market are contributing items. Gigi's will bring cupcakes.

Music will be provided by a DJ and there is room to dance.

"We have a lot of people from Fort Benning participate. It is a wonderful community event," Castile said.