Community Cooperative raised over $24,000 on April 9 at the return of Empty Bowls, an event that had not been held in Lee County since 2017. Empty Bowls included a soup competition and community entertainment to benefit Community Cooperative’s emergency food programs, which include Sam’s Community Café & Kitchen, the Community Market, Meals on Wheels and Mobile Food Pantries. One-of-a-kind handcrafted ceramic bowls made by Lee County schoolchildren were available for purchase as a fundraiser to raise awareness and help end hunger in Lee County.

“We’re so grateful for the generosity of our sponsors, child artists, restaurants, judges and the community who made this event a success,” said Stefanie Edwards, CEO of Community Cooperative. “While the event is fun and festive, it is also a reminder that many of our neighbors in Lee County are food insecure and rely on our services when they are in need.”

Area restaurants brought “souper” recipes for attendees to sample and vote for the People’s Choice Award. Participating restaurants were Bruno’s of Brooklyn, Community Cooperative’s Sam’s Community Café & Kitchen, Cuban Connection, Farmers Market Restaurant, Jason’s Deli, King’s Kitchen, McGregor Café, Shrimp Shack, The Standard and Seed & Bean.

Official judges for the soup competition were Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson, Fort Myers Fire Chief Tracy McMillion and Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane. Soup competition winner and People’s Choice winner was Seed & Bean for Roasted Wild Mushroom and Porcini Bisque with White Truffle. Second place was The Farmers Market with a Southwest Chicken Soup and third place was Cuban Connection with a Seafood Bisque.

The Lee County School District collaborated with this year’s event to raise hunger awareness through art. One-of-a kind handcrafted ceramic bowls were available for purchase were made by artists and children from Challenger Middle, Cypress Lake Middle, Cypress Lake High, Fort Myers Middle Academy, Harns Marsh Middle, Mariner High, River Hall Elementary, South Fort Myers High, Tortuga Elementary and Veterans Park Academy for the Arts.

FineMark National Bank & Trust was presenting sponsor of the event along with Kevin and Doreen Ruane, Suncoast Beverage Sales, Florida Power & Light, Henderson Franklin, Scotlynn, Waste Pro, Florida Weekly and NBC2.

Plans are underway for the 2023 Empty Bowls. For more information on getting involved, visit CommunityCooperative.com.

About Community Cooperative

For 37 years, Community Cooperative has worked to effectively eliminate hunger and homelessness in Lee County while simultaneously inspiring and supporting sustained positive change in its clients by delivering innovative food, education and social service programs. With a dedicated team of volunteers, board of directors and staff, Community Cooperative stays committed to its core responsibility to collect and distribute resources through a strong and viable network of community partners. Community Cooperative is an exemplary steward of the resources entrusted to it and serves clients with compassion and integrity. Through collaboration and ongoing education, Community Cooperative supports and strengthens those whose lives have been affected by hunger and homelessness, ensuring that they have access to the resources necessary to transform their lives with dignity. For more resources and information on how to get involved, contact Tami Holliday at Tami@communitycooperative.com or call (239) 332-7687. Monetary donations are always welcomed and can be made directly at www.CommunityCooperative.com, or mailed to: Community Cooperative, P.O. Box 2143, Fort Myers, FL 33902.