A glistening bowl bearing the signature of Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner is bound to draw a lot of competitive bids at Friday's Fill the Bowl event at the Padre Hotel.

"He (Jake) signed it when he was in town a couple of weeks ago," said Mark Corum. "We got one signed by Jimmy Watkins, the Olympic sprint cyclist, too."

Both objects are among the many pieces of artwork to be offered at the event's silent auction, said Corum, who serves as outreach and resource development manager at Community Action Partnership of Kern. CAPK, as its known, operates the Food Bank, which serves more than 10,000 families and individuals a month in Kern County.

"We do this in partnership with Color Me Mine," he said. "We give people a bowl kit; they paint it and after they're finished, we fire it."

Other well-known residents who participated are Chuck Wall, founder of Random Acts of Kindness; Condors head coach Matt O'Dette along with Claw'd, the team's mascot; and members of the Bakersfield College Renegades football team.

A number of local artists also contributed pieces, including a colorful and intricately designed work by Jemberu Y. Mebratu. Another fascinating bowl, done by Marcus Marantos, features a swirling sea creature.

"In general, the bowls are intended for display as artwork, not as dishware," Corum said. "However, I'm told some of the bowls could be used for that."

This is CAPK's third annual Fill the Bowl fundraiser. Appetizers will be served and a mariachi group, Voces de Mexico, will provide entertainment.

Specifically, the nonprofit agency's goal is to raise enough money to buy a new freezer for its main distribution center at 1807 Feliz Drive in southeast Bakersfield, Corum said.

So far, 80 percent of the $350,000 purchase price has been raised. As of now, $55,000 more is needed.

The new appliance is double the capacity of CAPK's current freezer.

"It will allow us to procure and distribute more frozen protein and other items to our clients," he said. "Also, this new unit is more energy efficient and will allow us the ability to meet the increasing demand."

And with the downturn in the economy, the number of hungry people among our population continues to rise.

"We are seeing the new face of the poor -- unemployed people who have lost their jobs," Corum said.

"I read recently that Bakersfield has the highest number of food hardship (cases) of any metro area of its size in the United States."

CAPK has 117 distribution sites all over Kern County, he said. Many are food pantries run by churches, senior centers and other organizations. In addition to food donated by members of the community, the agency also receives commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local growers and food manufacturers.

Major donors to the freezer campaign include the Wal-Mart Foundation State Giving Program, Kaiser Permanente, JR Albert Foundation, Resnick Family Foundation, 2012 Wal-Mart Fighting Hunger Together campaign, the Wheeler Foundation and PG&E.