A Step in The Right Direction Walkers Raise $3.6 Million To Fight Hunger

42,000 walkers traveled nearly twenty miles to raise money and awareness for the fight against hunger on May 1, 2011.

The Project Bread Walk for Hunger is the oldest and largest continual fund¬raising walk in the country. This 20 mile pledge walk raises money and awareness to help food panties, meals pro¬grams, food banks, and food salvage programs across the state supply food to the hungry.

The Walk for Hunger was started in Quincy in 1969 by a group of activists led by Patrick Hughes, a priest at the Paulist Center, a Boston-based Roman Catholic community organization. Hughes moved the Walk for Hunger to Boston in 1970 and concerned participants raised $25,000 in a shortened 25-mile walk. Four years later in 1974 the route is shortened to what it is today-20 miles under the direction of local activist Larry Kessler.

“In 1974 Larry Kessler assumed the responsibility as coordinator for the Walk,” said Stacy Wilbur, Director of Public Relations, Project Bread.

Over the next four decades Project Bead has marketed the Walk as it’s premier fund-raising event to help combat hunger. According to their website, projectbread.or, they facilitate a series of five major direct service programs, such as the Food Source Hotline. The hotline is the most comprehensive state¬wide hunger hotline and answers about 50,000 calls a year in partnership with the state Department of Transitional Services (DTA). Project Bread also works with 25 community health centers in Massachusetts to, among other things, provide emergency food vouchers and screen for food insecurity.

The Chefs in the Schools Program, which was originally started in Boston and expanded last year into Salem and Lawrence public schools, represents an innovative way to help children find healthy meals in the school cafeteria that limit processed-can foods and encourage the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. This food service program was started Chef Kirk Conrad, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America offers appealing and cost effective nutritious breakfasts and lunches following the recommendations of the USDA Food Pyramid calling for children-adults to eat a combined total of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. They also provide food service personnel with training manuals.

Project Bread also collaborates the DTA go help the elderly and other low-income individuals enroll in the SNAP Program. In addition, Project Bread teams up with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to reach out to low-income communities and encourage them to participate in school and summer meals programs.

In addition, Project Bread spon¬sors research in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health and other research institutions like the University of Massachusetts at Boston, McCormick Graduate School of Policy Studies, and the Center for Survey Research. In 1991, Project Bread teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Anti-Hunger Coalition and the University of Massachusetts Boston to conduct the Childhood Community Hunger Identification Project (CCHIP) which was a groundbreaking scientific study of hunger affecting low-income families. The Massachusetts (CCHIP) served as a model for nine other states and the Washington DC to complete between 1992 and 1994. In 2003 PB introduced the annual Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts as the state’s first report cards on hunger.

“With the economy still struggling Massachusetts families are seeing there month incomes stretched beyond capacity,” said Brooke MacKinnon, Communications Associate, Public Relations for Project Bread-The Walk for Hunger. “Hunger is affecting more than 660,000 people in the state.”

MacKinnon went on to point out that the states most vulnerable citizens cover a wide group of people including the elderly, children, the disabled and the unemployed.

“Hunger also affects the working poor, “ said MacKinnon. “ They have to use more and more of their income for rent, heating oil, medical and childcare.

“In 2011 MacKinnon highlighted the Walk raised 3.6 million dollars. Over 42,000 walkers, 2,000 volunteers, 57,000 donors and 30 corporate sponsors helped to raise the money.

“The Walk money goes to help fund over 446 emergency food program in 135 communities, across the state” said MacKinnon.

MacKinnon continued that the pro¬grams that get Project Bread fund include four categories; food panties, food banks, soup kitchens and food salvage programs. These programs fill out a grant request form that is submitted back to Project Bread by the middle of February. Project bread notifies all applicants by September of the same year.“These funds are awarded each September,” said MacKinnon.” They are notified and are invited to attend a grant award ceremony.”

Project Bread reported that the 446 emergency food programs awarded funds last year served a total of 58 mil¬lion meals.

For more information on the work of Project Bread and Walk for Hungeraccess www.projectbread.org

Robert Sondak is a Spare Change vender and writer. Robert graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts, Boston College of Public and Community Service (CPCS). Robert also minored in Urban Planning and Advocacy. Currently Robert is the Executive Director of the Nutrition Education Outreach Project, www.neo-pneop.blogstream.com

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.