Santa Maria Empty Bowls.
Santa Barbara County Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson, left, awaits a helping of chicken tortilla soup during Empty Bowls at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Wednesday. The event benefits the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Servers steadily ladled soup into bowls Wednesday at the Santa Maria Fairpark to raise funds for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

The 22nd annual Empty Bowls in Santa Maria included two seatings plus, for the first time, a to-go option. 

“There was a huge line all the way out to the edge of the Fairpark, so that was really exciting,” said Erik Talkin, the Foodbank’s executive director. “It’s great to see people standing in line to support the Foodbank rather than standing in line needing our services.”

Assorted restaurants and other organizations provided assorted gourmet soups, such minestrone, tri-tip chili, chicken tortilla, butternut squash, turkey noodle and steak stew. 

“I think the soups are probably the best ever this year,” Talkin said. 

In addition to serving up soup, the event included a raffle to help raise funds for the organization. 

Among those enjoying soups were Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson, who dubbed tri-tip chili and chicken pot pie as his favorites.

“It’s always a great event,” Nelson said of Empty Bowls. “It brings members of our community together for a common cause and goal.”

Proceeds raised will provide healthy groceries, fresh produce and nutrition education to Santa Maria residents facing food insecurity. 

The fundraiser has become especially needed because higher food costs have taken a bigger bite out of household budgets, Talkin said.

“All the help that we can give to families is really needed at this time, so we’re just grateful that people are supporting us,” Talkin said.

Santa Maria Empty Bowls.
Visitors browse through available bowls at Empty Bowls at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Wednesday to benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In 2023, Foodbank representatives said the organization has distributed more than 10 million pounds of food to 230,593 unduplicated individuals, with 52% of the individuals fed in Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria event is one of three Empty Bowls fundraisers to benefit the Foodbank each year. Lompoc Empty Bowls occurred in late July, and Santa Barbara Empty Bowls is scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Foodbank Sharehouse, 80 Coromar Drive in Goleta. 

Four seatings are planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees also can visit the Holiday Marketplace.

For tickets and more information about the Santa Barbara Empty Bowls, click here.