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Soups On! Ever wonder why we serve soup at Empty Bowls?

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

There is nothing more ordinary than soup; perhaps that is why we are so fond of it.

Soup’s comfort is in both its warmth and in its simplicity. It’s a meal that speaks of tradition, of home, and of hope.

Historians believe that soup was the original menu item of the very first public restaurants, which opened in 18th-century Paris. The word “restoratifs” (which loosely means that something is “restoring”) was first used in 16th-century France to refer to a highly concentrated, cheap soup sold by street vendors and promoted as a remedy to illness or physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a brick and mortar shop specializing in such soups, using the term “restaurant” to refer to his shop.

Soups —stews, pottages, porridges, gruels—are a universal dish, found across almost all cultures and accessible to all people. Soup evolved according to what ingredients could be found locally and what tastes a culture had already developed. Every culture has their soup: Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, French onion, Chinese wonton, New England chowder, Nigerian pepper soups, or an iconic can of Campbell’s tomato– a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

And soup, of course, takes on additional meaning when discussing food insecurity. Throughout history and even today, in times when food is scarce, combining various available ingredients into a pot to boil is not only cheap and resourceful, but nutritious and filling. Many of Second Harvest Food Bank’s 460+ partner programs are community meal sites known colloquially as “soup kitchens” — soup remaining an economical way to serve many people all at once. Of course, the “soup kitchens” of our network go far beyond serving soup, not only offering other nutritious foods but also social supports that help individuals and families get back on their feet.

Canned soups and condensed soups entered the market at the turn of the 20th century, introduced by the iconic Campbell Soup Company. Today, these canned soups and dried soups are a cornerstone of food banking, and are popular items to donate at Second Harvest food drives along with our other staple food items.

From Stone Age bone broth to France’s bouillon health tonics to canned soups in our food drive boxes, soup is a part of the human experience.

Send us your soup recipes!

Second Harvest Food Bank is collecting soup recipes that reflect the diverse ingredients, cultures, and family traditions of Northwest North Carolina. Recipes will be showcased on our Empty Bowls event website and social media—so tell us where they come from and what memories you have attached to them!

You can email them to or, post them to your Facebook page and use the hashtag #2019EmptyBowls.

One submission will be randomly selected to receive a prize: A Family 4-Pack of tickets to Second Harvest’s Annual Empty Bowls (dinner or luncheon) and a $30 gift card to enjoy at either of Second Harvest’s Providence Restaurants.

Get Your Empty Bowls Tickets Today!

Presented by Garner Foods, Second Harvest’s Annual Empty Bowls brings together the community of supporters that make our mission to connect hunger and health possible. More than 40 local chefs prepare their restaurant’s signature soup and supporting artisans and arts organizations from across Second Harvest Food Bank’s 18 county service area provide handcrafted and hand-painted bowls for each of our guests.

You don’t want to miss this beloved local tradition held each year at the Benton Convention Center. Whether you choose to attend the Empty Bowls dinner or Empty Bowls luncheon, you’ll enjoy a simple meal, live entertainment, and silent auction featuring a collection of handmade items made in North Carolina.

*UPDATE: Did you miss Empty Bowls this year? Don't worry-- it will be back next year! Follow us on social media for all our event announcements!

Purchase your tickets today at

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Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

3655 Reed St. 

Winston-Salem, NC 27107

Tel: 336-784-5770

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