CROP Hunger Walk aims to bolster area food supplies

MANNA FoodBank will receive one fourth of the proceeds from the Crop Hunger Walk, along with Loving Food Resources, ABCCM, and Meals on Wheels. Last year, Manna distributed 15 million pounds of food through 248 agency partners in 16 counties in Western North Carolina. Photo by Pat Barcas

Even in Foodtopia, hunger is a big problem. Last year, MANNA FoodBank distributed 15 million pounds of food through 248 agency partners in 16 counties in Western North Carolina. Just more than 100,000 people were served from MANNA alone in about 40,000 households.

Since 1969, the “granddaddy of walk-a-thons” has been steadily easing hunger pangs locally and worldwide, and the CROP Hunger Walk will take place once again in Asheville on Sunday, Oct. 4. The walk was started by Church World Service as a means of crop relief for farmers suffering in Europe and Asia post World War II. It slowly spawned into this modern event, with more than 2,000 hunger walks taking place nationwide throughout the year.

“This event, the spirit of walking, means coming out to walk in solidarity with people who have to walk for their basic necessities every day,” said Kevin McCoy, Southeast representative for Church World Service. “This is a great way for the community to come together and remember our neighbors around the world.”

Four local food relief agencies will receive 25 percent of the proceeds from the walk: MANNA FoodBank, Loving Food Resources, Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry and Meals on Wheels. The remaining money is used by Church World Service to alleviate hunger and poverty throughout the world, as well as for disaster relief.

Funds raised from past CROP Hunger Walks were used to help people after disasters such as the recent Texas floods, Hurricane Sandy, the earthquake in Nepal and the ongoing famine in Africa. The program also supports long-term self-help projects in the world’s poorest communities: agricultural training, health clinics, microbusinesses, schools and freshwater wells in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Walkers in Asheville have raised a cumulative $835,000 since the walk began here in 1979.

“There are so many wonderful organizations partnered here. Walkers can be confident the money is well-spent,” said Daniel Dudde, the 2015 Asheville CROP Hunger Walk chairperson, who said none of the money raised goes toward administrative costs. “This is very important to us, and Asheville is such a great town for helping the poor, so we’re expecting a great turnout.” Dudde said local interest in the walk has steadily increased with each passing year.

Along with the 300 people who are estimated to walk the 5-mile route Oct. 4 along Oak street, another group will be taking a more secluded stroll the day before, with the aim of not only helping those who are hungry, but strengthening their own minds and bodies.

“Last year, we had 299 men who walked 3,246 laps around the ball field, or 812 miles. Donors contributed a record $1,701 for the men’s efforts,” said Jean Clayton, chair of the Community Resource Council at Craggy Correctional Center on Riverside Drive in Asheville, which has a capacity of 408.

The men in the medium-security prison are not allowed out on passes, explains Clayton, so participating in the CROP Hunger Walk through a walk of their own is one of the few ways they get to give back to the community. The Hunger Walk at Craggy is just one of the social programs the Community Resource Council helps bring to the prison. The council was started in 1984 throughout prisons in North Carolina as a way to help rehabilitate those incarcerated and prepare them for an improved life upon release.

“We like to expose the men to many events to stimulate and educate them — happy memories that they can share with friends and family,” said Clayton. “Our purpose is a bridge between the outside community and the prison community. This is a way for others to see the men as real people, not just a number in a jumpsuit.”

Registration for the downtown CROP Hunger Walk is open through the day of the event, Oct. 4. There is no fee for entry, and the walk is family-friendly — strollers and pets are allowed. The Asheville event is encouraging teams and individuals from all faith groups, schools, colleges, clubs and organizations, civic groups and area businesses to participate in this communitywide event.

CROP Hunger Walk

When: Sunday, Oct. 4, beginning at 2 p.m. Registration and pre-walk activities begin at 1 p.m.
Where: The 5-mile walk will start and end at First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St.
For further information and to register, visit avl.mx/1rk.

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About Pat Barcas
Pat is a photojournalist and writer who moved to Asheville in 2014. He previously worked for a labor and social rights advocacy newspaper in Chicago. Email him at pbarcas@gmail.com. Follow me @pbarcas

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