The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina has canceled its popular Empty Bowls fundraiser over concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.

About a week ago, the food bank had rescheduled Empty Bowls, originally planned for April 21 and 22, to June 16 and 17 at Benton Convention Center downtown. The food bank then reconsidered, announcing the cancellation Monday.

Empty Bowls is an annual lunch or dinner in which participants also get a hand-crafted pottery bowl to take home. The meal includes soup, salad, beverage and dessert. People paid $35 for advance tickets this year.

“Second Harvest Food Bank’s Annual Empty Bowls has become a beloved community tradition and, although we are disappointed, we believe that canceling this year’s events is the best thing to do — for the community as the need for social distancing continues and for our restaurant partners as they face significant business challenges,” said Carolyn Breese, the vice president of philanthropy and community engagement.

In announcing the cancellation, the food bank said that it has seen a 40% to 60% increase in the need for food assistance in its 18-county service area since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently providing about 30,000 meals a week for children in need.

The food bank said that anyone who has bought Empty Bowls tickets will be able to get a refund or convert their tickets into donations in support of the food bank’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit www.secondharvestnwnc.org.

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