WESTFIELD — Robynn Leverich and Jeff Napp stood close in the high school art room Tuesday afternoon — easy targets for each other when explaining Bowls for Hunger.
“She’s such a good example because she’s not an art student, but she’s in here helping every year,” the art teacher said of Leverich, one of 20 Westfield Area High School students who were working on ceramic bowls after school.
“He’s been doing this forever,” Leverich said. Napp had organized the first Bowls for Hunger 21 years ago, but Leverich didn’t know that.
“What is it, 12 years now?” the senior guessed. Napp corrected her, not without some hesitation. Time moves quickly, his expression said.
Leverich replied, “Each year adds a little more.”
The bowls that will benefit the Marquette County Care and Share Food Pantry seem especially diverse in their design — perhaps more than ever before, Napp said. Those who attend the soup and chili supper at the Harrisville Sportsmens Club on Monday probably won’t disagree.
Zach Zajde, a junior, made 27 bowls for the event. Most of them feature the designs of famous book covers, like “Moby Dick,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Catcher in the Rye.”
“I look at the design and think, how can I get this into shapes and colors?” said Zajde, the president of the art club. His “Catcher in the Rye” design is an abstract red and tan outline of a carousel horse, while his “Grapes of Wrath” design shows people looking out across a farm field during the Dust Bowl.
“I always enjoy how this gets all our different clubs together. That’s really cool,” Zajde said. Students who contribute to Bowls for Hunger include members of the art club, business club, FFA, National Honor Society and the Student Council, among others. Almost half of the entire student body is part of it, Zajde estimated.
“It’s unique to our community,” he said.
How it works is simple. At the fundraiser dinner on Monday, participants pick out the stoneware bowl or bowls they like best and eat dinner. Meals are $8 for adults and $5 for children 10 and younger. The food is provided by local restaurants.
The school estimates students have made more than 10,000 bowls since the event started, raising $90,000 for the food pantry.
Westfield now averages about 1,000 bowls made per school year, Napp said. Last year, the students combined for 350 volunteer hours.
“Not too long after we got going,” Napp said, “there were some pretty bad financial years, especially in our county, which has a fairly high poverty rate.”
What Bowls for Hunger does for the community isn’t lost on the students. Their volunteer hours are charted on the walls outside his room.
“They sign in and out,” Napp said. “Some of the students this year went crazy in their designs,” including Zajde’s rendition of the iconic Morton Salt logo (the little girl in a yellow raincoat, holding an umbrella).
“It’s really hard to believe they’re doing these on a ceramic surface. … You’ll see art masterpieces like (Vincent van Gogh’s) ‘Starry Night’ and even some artwork copied from American Regionalist painters — just some really incredible things,” Napp said. “I keep marveling at these kids as they’re finishing these.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Leverich said of how her community comes together for Bowls for Hunger. She kept volunteering each year even though she’s not particularly interested in art. Leverich — who wants to be a teacher — helped her classmates by glazing the bowls prior to their design work.
“It’s awesome. It’s a great cause.”