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Empty Bowls Returns

Updated: Feb 6

Oxford’s beloved Empty Bowls event, an annual fundraiser for the Pantry, returns after a nearly four-year absence. 

Written by Leslie Criss  |  Photographed by Joe Worthem


Many residents of Oxford and Lafayette County have waited since 2019 for a well-loved event halted four years ago because of the COVID pandemic. It’s finally back. Oxford’s Empty Bowls will return Thursday, Feb. 15, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Oxford Conference Center.


Tickets, sold at the door, are $25 and entitle each person to a lunch of soup, bread, water and a handmade pottery bowl. Proceeds, as always, help support the Pantry, which has been helping feed people in need for 35 years.


“The Pantry has fed 600 families monthly,” said Juanita Boutin, the Pantry’s publicist. “That’s families, not people. And the Pantry is totally manned by volunteers from top to bottom. Empty Bowls, put on by the Pantry and its volunteers, is the Pantry’s primary fundraiser.”


It’s a popular event that has been missed not only by the Pantry but also by the people who attend the event.

Oxford Empty Bowls began two decades ago, in 2004, the brainchild of Dale and June Rosentreter. It was held that first year at Oxford University United Methodist Church. 

“I’ve had people calling and writing me for some time asking when Empty Bowls would be back,” said Monte Ochs, this year’s Empty Bowls Luncheon Committee co-chairperson, along with Dorothy Laurenzo. 


As the person in charge of the bowls for the luncheon, Ochs set a goal of finding potters to make a total of 1,300 bowls. He reached out to local and area potters to make and donate bowls, and even recruited some artists from farther away, including Hattiesburg, Tupelo and the Delta.


Other contributers include Oxford Middle and High School students as well as the Mud Daubers, a club of Ole Miss students who have made and provided bowls for several years.


“If  everyone comes through, we should hit the goal,” Ochs said. “I’ve had several hundred bowls that were delivered to my house early on. This is something these potters do for the community.”


The bowls are not the only donations. Delicious soups will be prepared and contributed by local restaurants, hotels and country clubs. The bread and water are contributed, and the city offers the Conference Center free of charge. 


The community effort of so many makes Empty Bowls possible,” Ochs said.


About The Pantry

The Pantry is open 50 weeks a year — each Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. It is located at 713 Molly Barr Road, next to the Oxford Police Department. For more information, visit The Pantry of Oxford & Lafayette County on Facebook or call 662-832-8001.

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