Food fighters: Middlebury convenes for 50th CROP Hunger Walk

By HAEUN PARK

BENJY RENTON
This year’s CROP Walk included participants of all ages, who raised almost $7,000 online as of Oct. 8.

For 50 years, towns across America have laced up, stretched out and walked side-by-side as part of the Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP) Hunger Walks. Last Sunday, Oct. 6, 180 community members gathered for the walk in Addison County, now in its 42nd consecutive year. Live music and brisk autumn winds swept through the Town Green as families, pets and neighbors mingled around tables displaying donated boxes of donuts and pizza. When, at 1 p.m., the walkers began their three-mile course through town, they were sent off to the sound of trumpet fanfare.

CROP Hunger Walks are hosted across the country each year to raise awareness and funds for overcoming systemic poverty. They are sponsored by the Church World Service, an agency that provides disaster relief, development and refugee assistance internationally. 

This year marks the 50th year of the CROP Hunger Walk and the 13th year of Patty Hallman’s involvement as co-chair of the Addison County walk. According to Hallman, the local board that organizes the walks has mastered the process. Preparation for the walk begins in the spring, when Hallman contacts all the community churches and organizations that have taken part in previous years and informs them of the date of the walk. As the walk draws closer, Hallman begins distributing registration packets and posters as advertisement.

Twenty-five percent of the money raised during the event is directly distributed to seven local hunger-fighting organizations, including the Middlebury Summer Lunch Program and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. One of the biggest portions of the funds goes to Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (H.O.P.E), Addison County’s largest food shelf.

“This walk is really important to the people in this community,” Hallman said. “Every year, the mission continues to be the same: feeding our neighbors that live right around our corner and our neighbors that live around the world.” 

Last year, Addison County CROP participants raised $26,400. Nationally, participants spread over 800 walks raised a total $8,300,000. 

The route started at the Town Green and passed through many key landmarks in town, including Middlebury Union High School, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-Op and the Davis Family Library. During the walk, volunteers in neon orange traffic vests — several high school students from the youth group at the Congregational Church of Middlebury — directed crowds of walkers safely through the main intersections of the course.

BENJY RENTON
The Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society was one of many congregations that participated in the walk.

Geography Professor Peter Nelson has been helping direct event traffic for around eight years. 

“One of the nice things [the walk] has is a broad reach both globally and locally,” Nelson said. “I also think it’s a way in which youth in the area can get involved in something that’s good. My youngest son — he’s 12-years old — raised nearly $400. He felt really good about that and thought that was cool. It was something where he could see himself making an impact.”

Children brought a lively energy to the walk. Every so often, a group of kids would run to the front of the pack, laughing and weaving in between the legs of adults. The event hosted people from a diverse range of ages and experiences, such as Mona Rogers, a Middlebury alumni class of 1962. 

Rogers has lived in Vermont for 41 years and started participating in the hunger walk her first year here. She has attended regularly since 1979. 

“The first year I joined, I knew it was something good that the church and the world should do,” Rogers said. “There’s so many hungry people in the world, so we need to do what we can in our small areas.”

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