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Ceramics students fighting local food insecurity

Students from Heywood's ceramics class creating one-of-a-kind bowlsWhen moving from Pennsylvania to Florida, art and design associate professor Stephen Heywood brought his passion for service along with his artistic talents. After being involved with the Empty Bowls project in graduate school, Heywood introduced the project to his students at the University of North Florida. 18 years later, UNF has contributed nearly 4,000 handcrafted bowls to fight food insecurity.  

The Empty Bowls project is a global grassroots movement by artists and craftspeople to raise money for food-related charities and to care for and feed the hungry in their communities. 

For students like Ethan Arias, an interdisciplinary studies major with a concentration in engineering and ceramics, participating in the project means more than just making bowls. Having experienced food insecurity himself in high school, Arias has been a part of the Empty Bowls project since he was introduced to it three years ago as a sophomore.  

"Witnessing the community's generosity and contribution to battle the problem of food insecurity is amazing," Arias said. "The project really furthers the idea of food being a connection point." 

A student dips her hand in a bowl of water while helping create one-of-a-kind bowlsFor the past decade, Heywood and his UNF students have created and donated beautiful ceramic bowls to support the Barnabas Center in Nassau County. The Barnabas Center hosts an annual auction meal event to raise awareness and funds to combat hunger and crisis in Nassau County. A simple meal of soup, bread and dessert is served, and each guest selects a beautiful, hand-painted bowl to take home. The ceramic bowls serve as a stunning permanent reminder of the need to assist those who struggle with hunger.  

"We are always so grateful for UNF's contribution and are blown away with the talent of the students," said Tania Yount, the chief development officer of the Barnabas Center.