Food & Drink

Lexington Hunger Walk raises awareness along with money, organizers say

Theo Swank, 9, left, and Oliver Swank, 6, carried a sign during the Greater Lexington CROP Hunger Walk, which began at Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington and snaked through the Kenwick and Bell Court neighborhoods this year.
Theo Swank, 9, left, and Oliver Swank, 6, carried a sign during the Greater Lexington CROP Hunger Walk, which began at Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington and snaked through the Kenwick and Bell Court neighborhoods this year. Herald-Leader

Alice Rogers was getting her blood pressure checked at her doctor's office when the nurse's assistant asked her where she worked.

God's Pantry Food Bank, Rogers said.

"You've helped me," the woman said. The woman's husband had died recently in an accident. She was struggling to make ends meet on one paycheck, so the woman went to one of the pantry's many locations to get food.

"I thought I knew what hunger looked like," Rogers said Sunday while manning a table at the 28th annual Greater Lexington CROP Hunger Walk at Second Presbyterian Church. "But hunger doesn't have a face. It's people you know."

That's why Sunday's CROP Walk was so important, said Rogers, development coordinator for God's pantry. The event not only raises money for local groups such as God's Pantry but also raises awareness about the stubborn and persistent problem of hunger across Kentucky and the world.

On Sunday, 23 churches and six organizations from five surrounding counties participated in the roughly 3-mile walk around downtown that typically draws 300 to 400 participants, said Judith Maxson, coordinator for the Central Kentucky walk.

It started at Second Presbyterian Church, which has hosted the walk for more than a decade, and went up Main Street to Sherman Avenue and through the Kenwick and Bell Court neighborhoods this year.

"This year we have six (non-religious) organizations participating, which we haven't had before," Maxson said. Also new this year — Alfalfa restaurant on Main Street was the first business to participate in the walk in its 28-year history. Alfalfa agreed to donate 5 percent of all of its sales Sunday to the walk, Maxson said.

Last year, the walk raised a little more than $19,300. This year, the goal was to raise $25,000. According to the event website, more than $6,000 had been raised even before the walk started.

Maxson said they were trying to include more non-religious groups in the walk to raise more awareness and money to eradicate hunger.

CROP Hunger Walks have taken place across the country for more than 25 years and are organized through Church World Service. The acronym CROP used to stand for Christian Rural Overseas Program, but that no longer applies to its full mission.

About 25 percent of the proceeds from the walk will go to God's Pantry; the remaining money will go to Church World Service, which has hunger eradication and other programs around the world.

Rogers said God's Pantry Food Bank received about $5,000 from the walk last year. That money helps the agency serve roughly 2,000 families a month in a 50-county service area. The pantry serves on average 200,000 individuals a year.

But Rogers said God's Pantry is pushing to open distribution centers in under-served counties in its 50-county area, where the agency said 250,000 people need food and don't have access to it. For example, a distribution center will open soon in Rowan County.

According to God's Pantry's 2014 annual report on hunger in Central and Eastern Kentucky, hunger disproportionately affects the elderly and children — 51 percent of the agency's clients fall into those two categories.

"When the community comes out to events like these, it really shows the community cares," Rogers said.

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