By Barry Barbe

The weather is near perfect, as you wait in the food line. The sun is in the right spot and there is the cool Prescott breeze, which makes us the envy of everyone during even the hottest summer season, as you wait.

There are other times where the wind is blowing, dampened by a steady rain, as you wait. In winter, things are moving slower, but there is the promise of cover inside with a warm meal and a bit of respite from the wait.

As you drive home thankful for the box of staples you’ve received, you glance over at the contents hoping there is enough food to get through the week until payday … and you wait.

In Yavapai County, the number of community members who live without knowing where their next meal will come from is staggering. Some place the number of our neighbors experiencing food insecurity at 25,000. The estimated national average is 10% of the population. Many would be surprised when they find out who makes up this list.

There are many in our community who are living paycheck to paycheck. For many, what may be a minor financial setback, can cause others to fall off the cusp and into a life of uncertainty, dependent on the good will of others, and lines of wait.

This 10% is far from the 1%.

For many, Empty Bowls Prescott is an annual event where we gather on the courthouse plaza, greet friends, and enjoy a bevy of soupy concoctions from local restaurants and eateries. With over a dozen selections, not only will you be nourished, you will have a difficult time choosing between the Vegan Roasted Red Pepper, Chilled Gazpacho, or Garden Minestone.

Beyond the dining and social aspect, there is a deeper message to Empty Bowls that is occasionally lost as we wait in a line wrapping the plaza as 800-plus Prescottonians wait in line for a hand thrown bowl, savory soup, a fresh baked roll, pleasant conversation, and community.

For a short period of your day you are standing in the footsteps of someone else who experiences this wait on a regular basis.<br />

Empty Bowls came into being in 1990. A social project in a Michigan high school where Art Teacher John Hartom and students hosted a social awareness fundraiser with students creating the bowls, and local restaurants supplying the soup. Entries were judged by teachers in their break room and sold to attendees who were able to buy a hand-crafted bowl and soup with a side of bread. And they got to keep the bowl. This simple classroom, grassroots program became Empty Bowls, which has spread internationally and is recognized with local hosted events worldwide. <br />

In Prescott, Empty Bowls is continuing a tradition that began 26 years ago — in 1997.<br />

Hosted and sponsored by Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the Prescott Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the event raises money and awareness by providing meals with a message.

In 2022, the event brought in more than $24,000, which was distributed to 11 local food banks.

Community feeding community.

With over 1,200 hand-thrown bowls from local potters, the Mud Makers and Yavapai College, bowls are available to be filled and for purchase throughout the event, Sunday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the courthouse plaza in downtown Prescott.

Local bakeries, Hot Cakes, Pangaea, Panera and Grammas are donating cornbread, rolls and bread to accompany the soup selections.

Music, such as from Ruckus, will be on hand to keep everyone entertained with their folksy sound at the gazebo.

Cost is $20 for the bowl and a selection of soup, or $15 for the bowl alone.

It is Empty Bowls Prescott.

Enjoy the opportunity to wait in line with family, friends and community members as you make a difference in the life another.

Those donating soup include Gringo’s Taco Shop, The Local Prescott, Goods from the Garden, Slow Foods Prescott, Red White &amp; Brew, Raven Café, Park Plaza Liquor &amp; Deli, Meals on Wheels, Premier Catering, El Gato Azul, Tormé, and The Club at Prescott Lakes.

For more information, visit and on Facebook: Empty Bowls of Prescott Arizona.

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email:

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