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Our Story

Martin Empty Bowls is a regional project of the larger grassroots movement called Empty Bowls Project. Martin Empty Bowls was founded in 2003 by UTM art professor and potter David McBeth in Martin, Tennessee. 

Martin Empty Bowls' mission is to fight world hunger, beginning with those hungry in their own community and raise awareness of food insecurity in Northwest Tennessee. An annual potluck is held where every donation given to the local food pantry is thanked by the gift of a handmade ceramic bowl. All donations made to Martin Empty Bowls goes to WE CARE Ministries' Food Pantry that serves Weakley County. 

As a potter, David has participated in many Empty Bowls fundraisers. In the early 2000's, the youth group at the local church David and his family attended would volunteer at WE CARE Ministries during the holidays. 


"As a potter, I connected with Empty Bowls. I believe in utilitarian works, and it felt like a logical association. So when I talked to Carol about my ideas to have the youth group throw 50 bowls and sell them for $10, the relationship with WE CARE was already there. Carol asked, 'why only 50, and why only our church?' So we threw 500 bowls and invited the whole town. Various churches in the community back then were doing a community wide Thanksgiving service. It seemed like the perfect time. So along with a couple students, we made a couple hundred bowls and everyone enjoyed stone soup and fellowship."

In past years we've held our potlucks at the Interfaith Center on the University of Tennessee at Martin's campus and the Fine Arts building's "Little Theater", but we've been fortunate enough to outgrow each space. After we sold out of 600 bowls in 2 hours, we knew it was time to move again. In 2017 we moved our potluck of 1,500 bowls to the Student Life Center on UTM campus.

In 2020 and 2021 we moved once again, this time to an online event instead of an in-person community potluck. For the 2022 potluck we returned to the in person community potluck in the Ballroom of the Boling University Center on the UTM campus.

We will be hosting this year's fundraiser during the Harvest Festival on Martin Public Library Stage across from the Farmer’s Market Harvest Market from 8am - noon on October 14th. 


Our Partner

WE CARE Ministries was founded in 1973 in Martin, TN. WE CARE does not receive any government funding and 100% of all monetary donations are used to assist families in our community. 

WE CARE currently has 11 assistance programs, including the food bank, education & literacy, child care, and direct aid. 

For more information about WE CARE Ministries or how to get involved, visit them online at

or stop by the store:


530 N. Lindell St.

Martin, TN 38237

2022 Bowl-a-thon volunteers with professors & potters Jason Woolery and David McBeth

Our University

Martin Empty Bowls is a broad-based community project that could not function without the strong support of the University of Tennessee at Martin. The Department of Visual and Theatre Arts provides generous backing by way of studio space, equipment, and materials and University Relations does a phenomenal job of spreading word of our efforts throughout the region. We are forever grateful to the students, faculty, and staff that have been involved over the years and dedicated countless hours and efforts to aid in the continuation of this project.

From the Press

Mayor Randy Brunidge, Martin - Weakley County Press


“So many people need help and these bowls provide that help. It’s a great civic thing he (David) does for the community and I’m grateful.”


Heidi S. Busch, Martin community member

"This is one of my favorite things about being in the Martin community!"

WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News - Nov. 15, 2019

Image from WBBJ Eyewitness News

WBBJ Eyewitness News came out to the studio on Nov. 15th to chat about Martin Empty Bowls and the potluck this weekend. We really enjoyed our time with reporter Julie Ewoldt, and the opportunity to share our story with so many of you. Many of our community members, adults and children, need a little extra help, especially during the holiday season. We are blessed and honored to be able to offer that help, even if in a small way.

Thank you to every community member, local business, church, and school that has devoted their resources, times and energy each year to help make this potluck possible.

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