BFL Empty bowlsArt classrooms at Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School have looked more like flower gardens awash with dozens of blooms. Vibrant colors, patterns and creative shapes were all there except they were not growing; they were actually soup bowls that seventh- graders had created for the Empty Bowls Project to benefit Southington Bread for Life.

This project is an international effort to fight hunger. Potters, artists, teachers and students work with the community to create handmade bowls. At DePaolo, the seventh-grade art classes taught by Rebecca Sellers and John Wiellette created the pottery while the sixth-grade Family Consumer Science classes assembled a dried soup mix that was placed in a packet in each bowl.

The bowls were sold during Drama Club performances for a $5 donation. In exchange, buyers were asked to use it as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. Proceeds from these projects are donated to an organization to end hunger and food insecurity. It was decided that all monies would be given to Bread for Life.

This collaborative project was spearheaded by Gina Tarantino, a paraeducator and active supporter of Bread for Life. “The response was phenomenal. The kids really got into it,” she said. “We have really appreciated what they’re doing for our community.”

During a visit to the art classrooms to view the collection of bowls, Bread for Life Executive Director Eldon Hafford explained to the students about the organization that that offers a variety of food programs to Southington’s neediest. “When you stop to have your lunch today, just think, ‘Today I helped feed the hungry,’” he said. DePaolo staff and students have been quite generous in other ways including conducting regular food drives. “Each one of you is making a difference,” Hafford said.

Students made two, three or four bowls and were allowed to keep one. They rolled the clay, cut out and shaped the flowers, painted them and then they were fired. Brandon Melgar said he liked the project and the creativity it allowed him. One of his bowls was bright red and black while another was a light blue that faded into darker hues. “Making the pottery was really fun. I’ve enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Sellers said she loved seeing the students’ excitement about the project, which gave some of them new ways to express themselves and explore a new art medium. It was another example of how DePaolo’s mission encourages community involvement and helping others.

Shadrea Harvey, a seventh-grader new to DePaolo, said she had worked with clay and pottery in the past but this project was something special. “I liked doing this, creating my own bowls. It’s good to do something to feed the hungry,” she said.

For more information about purchasing a bowl, call DePaolo at (860) 628-3260. For more information about Bread for Life, visit


A display of colorful bowls includes an explanation of the Empty Bowls Project.

Two seventh-graders chat with art teacher Rebecca Sellers while they roll out clay they will model into bowls.

Showing their handiwork are, from left, Alex Carabetta, Katie Clynes, teacher Rebecca Sellers, Emily Spencer, Adessa Noyes, paraeducator Gina Tarantino, and Eldon Hafford, Bread for Life executive director.