Serving soup at CAC results in more than $5,000 in contributions for community programs

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – The slurping of soup at Central Arizona College during two days in late February has resulted in more than $5,000 in donations for several community programs in Pinal County.

On Feb. 23, Central Arizona College’s 8th Annual Empty Bowls event hosted by the CAC Art Club and the students of the culinary arts program raised more than $3,500 for the following food banks: St. Vincent de Paul, Casa Grande Food Bank and Sharing Hands of Coolidge and Florence.

Each organization will receive a check for $1188. The record-setting event saw more than 350 bowls purchased by the community, sending the eight-year total of raised funds to just over $13,000.

“The CAC Art Club evaluated the success of this year’s event and has decided to set a goal of $20,000 to be donated by the time we celebrate our 10th Empty Bowls in 2012,” Sue Ramos, professor of art, said. “The CAC Art Club and the culinary students did a wonderful job and the whole event seems to be taking on a life of its own.”

Potters contributing their bowl-making talents included Casa Grande residents Tom Belden, Sandy Bryant, Lynn Cook, Gordy Dingman, Barb Hamzik, Marie MacGregor, Frank Menchaca, Christina Pugh, Jacob Pugh and Hugo Steincamp.

The list of contributing potters also included Larry Milligan of Arizona City, Greg Wenz of Mesa, Tom Budzak of Tempe, and Larry Milligan of Alberta, Canada.

“Empty Bowls is a worldwide grassroots initiative that started in 1990 in Michigan to help fight hunger,” Ramos explained. “Traditionally these events are held around the holidays to help raise money for food banks.”

Ceramists at Central Arizona College create food-safe, stoneware bowls by donating their material and time. The clay was donated this year by Marjon Ceramics, Inc., located in Phoenix. Roughly 600 bowls were created for this year’s luncheon.

This marks the eighth consecutive year the event has been held at CAC’s Signal Peak Campus. The entire project is a joint effort between the Central Arizona College Art Club, the institution’s culinary arts department, Student Leadership, and Marjon Ceramics, Inc.

Culinary Arts students enrolled in both Baking and Pastry I and II helped prepare more than 25 gallons of soup, dozens of pans of corn bread, beverages and dessert. Students from the Dining and Beverage class and the Catering Operations class helped with the set-up, service and cleanup.

“The students participate in this event outside of regular class time, making it a true volunteer effort,” Chef Carol Bennett, CAC’s culinary coordinator/preceptor, said. “Student cooks prepare the soups. The meal is served very simply to demonstrate solidarity with folks who are served in a soup kitchen.”

Just 24 hours later on Feb. 24, the Central Arizona Lifelong Learners (C.A.L.L.) program hosted its annual Soup’s On event to raise money for CAC’s Promise for the Future scholarship fund.

This year 213 people were served soup from 36 different crock pots at the Superstition Mountain Campus, resulting in $1750 in donations for the scholarship program. It marked an increase of 41 guests and $350 over the 2009 totals.

Soup’s On is organized by C.A.L.L. members who make homemade soups, stews and chili - almost anything that can be brewed up in a crock pot - for guests who have an opportunity to sample as much food as they can slurp.

The event benefits the Promise for the Future Scholarship Program - a joint effort of Central Arizona College, the Central Arizona College Foundation, and the schools of Pinal County. Its purpose is to address the school dropout rate in the county and increase access to higher education.

Pinal County students enrolled in the eighth grade in a Pinal County middle school have the opportunity to sign a Promise for the Future Contract of Commitment. This information is distributed through Pinal County middle schools in the spring of each year.

Students must then graduate from a Pinal County high school with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 and enroll in a minimum of 12 credits per semester at Central Arizona College. Recipients may receive the award of up to four semesters of in-state tuition to use at any of CAC’s 10 campuses or centers.

While at Central Arizona College, students must maintain a 2.50 GPA, be continuously enrolled at the college, and complete a minimum of nine credits each semester.

The Promise for the Future Scholarship program was launched in May 2001. Through 2009, more than 7,000 Pinal County students have enrolled in the program.

In the fall of 2009, more than 150 students who graduated from high schools in Pinal County entered their freshman year at Central Arizona College through the Promise for the Future Program.

For more information about the Empty Bowls event or about CAC pottery classes, please contact Susan Ramos by phone at 520-494-5084, or by e-mail at

For information on contributing to the Promise for the Future Scholarship Fund, please contact Gary Broussard, executive director of the Central Arizona College Foundation, by phone at 520-494-5469, or by e-mail at

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