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Walk in PA: Feet First in the Battle Against Hunger

PHOTO: The Hunger Run and Walk is sponsored by Stroehmann and kicks off Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
PHOTO: The Hunger Run and Walk is sponsored by Stroehmann and kicks off Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
April 11, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - There's putting your foot in your mouth, and then there's using your feet to put food in the mouths of those who need it.

The Walk and Run Against Hunger happens Saturday in Philadelphia, and proceeds will help fund more than 100 food pantries, soup kitchens and hunger relief agencies in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The money is important, said Julie Zaebst, interim executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, since many of the groups are run by volunteers.

"That might mean buying a new refrigerator or freezer to store the food that they're distributing, putting gas in the church van that goes to pick up the food from the food bank to bring it back to where it will be distributed, or just paying for basics that they need to run their program as volunteers," she said.

Whether it's food or any other kind of assistance, said Vernessa Wilson, who runs the food pantry for the Mizpah Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Philadelphia's Frankford section, no one ever is turned away.

"People come here for opportunity, and what the Walk does for us, it helps us to be able to provide more food for our clients," she said. "It makes me feel really good to do the walk because it makes me feel like I'm giving something back."

Zaebst said events such as the Hunger Run and Walk especially are critical at a time when SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is under consideration for cuts in the Farm Bill.

"As it stands, a lot of our food pantries and soup kitchens see a big uptick in need at the end of the month because people's food stamps or SNAP benefits don't last them through the month," she said, "and so if those benefits are reduced we're only going to see a greater strain on these volunteer-run programs."

According to the Food Research and Action Center, nearly one in five Americans struggles to afford enough food for his or her households. In the Philadelphia region alone, Zaebst said, a half million people struggle to buy groceries at one time or another during the year.

The Hunger Run and Walk, sponsored by Stroehmann, kicks off Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA