Food bank’s Empty Bowls event raises record amount

EDINBURG — It’s called Empty Bowls, but efforts to raise funds for the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley’s 16th annual luncheon were anything but empty.

Food bank and Edinburg city leaders gathered at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg to continue to raise funds in support of the food bank’s work. This year, over $130,000 were raised.

The luncheon featured 35 restaurants, including the Delgado Collective, Casa de la Abuela, Cowboy Chicken, LongHorn Steakhouse and others — all were well-represented at the arena on Tuesday with items from their menus, as well as tables and tables of bowls decorated with colorful designs and messaging reflecting the mission.

A nonprofit organization, the food bank hosts the Empty Bowls fundraiser every year to generate funds in support of its efforts to provide meals to communities with food insecurity.

Food bank representatives have said for several years that these needs increased due to hardships incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic in the area, and more recently because of inflation leading to skyrocketing food and fuel costs.

“The empty bowls symbolize that there are people here in the Valley that aren’t fortunate enough to fill their bowls, so this is our largest fundraiser to help end hunger in the Valley,” said Philip Farias, senior manager of corporate engagement, events and government relations for the food bank.

Every year the food bank partners with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and South Texas College, which help provide the ceramic bowls that are then painted during “paint parties,” which are hosted throughout the year.

The food bank hosts public paint parties where residents can paint the ceramic bowls that will later be displayed and given away at the luncheon.

This year’s event featured a total of 150,000 bowls, some of which were handmade ceramic bowls provided by UTRGV and STC.

“We paint the bowls throughout the year and then this is where we bring them out and present them. We do about 1,000 bowls … it’s kind of like a souvenir to take home,” Farias explained.

Hamburger sliders are served during the 16th annual Empty Bowl Luncheon and Silent Auction at Bert Ogden Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

As of Tuesday morning, the food bank had raised a total of $138,000 in sponsorships. According to Libby Ann Saenz, co-chief executive officer of the food bank, last year the event raised a total of $101,000.

She explained participation grows every year.

“It means that we continue doing what we’re supposed to be doing — feeding people, bringing awareness to what’s going on, and it brings awareness to the work that we’re doing,” Saenz said.

According to Saenz, 98 cents of every dollar raised goes back to food bank programs.

Farias also said that in addition to funding the nonprofit’s general operations, it also goes toward providing meals for the public.

“As you know, field costs have risen, food prices have increased, so as a food bank we purchase some food also. This helps get more food out to the people in the community,” Farias said, adding that every dollar raised can provide up to five healthy meals.

For information on how to support the food bank’s efforts, visit the website at

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Joel Martinez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Food bank’s Empty Bowls event raises record amount