After conducting an internal study at Mitchell High School, art teacher Marica Shannon has learned even more of the extent of hunger in Mitchell.
Data of the study shows that 44 percent of elementary students, 35 percent of middle school students and 27 percent of high school students in the Mitchell School District qualify for reduced or free lunches this year. Approximately 28 percent of all students in the district come to school hungry.
The study was part of an assignment for a student marketing team at MHS that assisted with the promotion of this year's Empty Bowl Project held at Dakota Wesleyan University during the Hunger Summit.
The research was conducted online and allowed students to anonymously leave remarks and answer questions like "do you eat supper every night?"
"One student answered that she sometimes goes to bed early because there is not enough food in her home. That's just heartbreaking," Shannon said.
For nine years, Shannon has been involved in the Empty Bowl Project, raising more than $12,000 for the Mitchell Food Pantry since 2009.
Her students create unique ceramic soup bowls during pottery class and sell them for $5 each during the fundraising event benefiting the Mitchell Food Pantry. This year they made about 180 bowls and plates for the popular luncheon.
"I made one plate and one bowl for this year's event. Both were sold at the Empty Bowl event and that made me feel proud. It makes you feel good to help others," said MHS senior Komal Patel.
In the past the popular luncheon has been hosted in different locations, and a couple of years ago Shannon was approached by Dakota Wesleyan University about merging the high school event with the Hunger Summit.
This year the summit focused on food sovereignty, which encompasses a wide platform of food security issues, from ecological sustainability to agricultural methods to culturally appropriate foods.
"Offering my students the opportunity to work in multiple ways at a college event is awesome. That to me-and the collaboration of the schools-is more important to me, than the actual numbers. It's for a good cause," Shannon said.
This year's sales mirror the success of the prior year's with $1,400 raised for the Mitchell Food Pantry.
There are still bowls available for purchase at Mitchell High School or at Potter's Plus Studio on Main Street in Mitchell for $5 a piece.