While working to end hunger in Massachusetts, Project Bread hosted its 50th annual Walk for Hunger on Sunday, May 6. For 20 miles through the heart of Boston, over 10,000 people walked and donated money while getting exercise, meeting new people, and fighting for change.
“Seeing a sea of people walk who come from all different backgrounds is powerful,” said Erin McAleer, president of Project Bread.
One in 10 Massachusetts’ residents, and one in seven children in Massachusetts deal with food insecurity and hunger. Project Bread is an organization dedicated to taking action against statewide hunger. Standing by their beliefs that people from all walks of life deserve sustainable access to healthy food, the project created a large movement unifying thousands of people with a common goal. Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline connects people directly to the project staff if they are in need of help.
“The first thing is that we try to connect them to immediate resources like a food pantry nearby,” said Leran Minc, Public Policy Associate for the project. “We always ask if the person wants to be screened for SNAP. That’s a great way to get them more sustained benefits to help stabilize them.”
SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps, assists families with bringing healthy meals to the table. Those who participated in the walk and donated to the cause helped further the opportunities for this service.
The executive board of Project Bread is still counting the donations of the walk, however they are expecting to reach their goal of $2.4 million. The proceeds, donated by individuals, teams, and organizations are then donated back to the community through soup kitchens, food pantries, community gardens and other organizations across the state. Last year, the project funded 263 organizations, 56 of which were in Boston.
Some of the funded organizations included Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Friday Night Supper Program, Harbor City Schools, The Paulist Center, and many more.
According to the most recent proceed update, Team TILL raised the most money with $17,420. TILL, or Toward Independent Living and Learning, provides resources and support for individuals of all ages with intellectual disabilities, learning differences, mental health disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and other disabilities.
Team TILL is associated with Heart and Sole, a branch of the project for those who raise over $500. Heart & Solers receive special recognition, personalized fundraising support, exclusive event gear and benefits as well as invitations to special Heart & Sole Circle events such as the Walk for Hunger Kick-Off Breakfast, a social for the group, and additional volunteer opportunities.
Jennifer Polischuk and Tanya Amato are both Team TILL members who dedicate their time to raising money for the organization.
“There are about 260 to 300 members on Team TILL,” said Polischuk. While still waiting for the final numbers to roll in, the team is proud of their funds thus far.
“After the final count, we expect to have raised near $25,000,” said Amato.
The Walk for Hunger works to spread the message that hunger is real in hopes of breaking the stigma.
“I think the number one thing to do is to talk about it,” said McAleer. “There is a stigma and a lot of shame but the reality is that it can happen to anyone. It can your neighbor, your colleague, your friend. You likely know someone who is struggling to put food on the table.”
The issue of hunger is a prominent issue in politics. Project Bread hopes that walkers will be engaged year round and will be politically engaged to continue to make progress.
“We have been walking for 50 years. What we know is that this is a solvable problem and we wish we weren’t still walking,” said McAleer. “We are celebrating the progress that’s been made, but we are in a critical point right now where government officials are looking to defund these anti-hunger programs and the progress that has been made might be derailed. Not only have we not solved it, but one in 10 people in Mass. are still hungry which is unacceptable.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling to provide healthy meals, call the FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.