Raising Awareness

Monte Belmonte | Member of Coalition’s Communication & Education Team
Radio Personality, WRSI The River

Since 2010, WRSI – 93.9 The River’s Monte Belmonte (and member of the Coalition to End Hunger) has been leading his annual Monte’s March event through the Pioneer Valley to fight hunger in our region. This year was no exception. On November 19 & 20, Monte pushed a shopping cart 43 miles from Springfield to Greenfield to raise vital funds for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. While broadcasting live during his march, Monte encouraged his listeners to call with their donations or to donate online. By the time he and his dozens of supporters reached Bank Row in Greenfield, Monte’s March raised more than $271,000, providing the equivalent of 813,000 meals.

In addition to raising more than $1.1 million dollars of the course of its nine year, the annual event also raises something equally as important — awareness.

As he marches those 43 miles, Monte is reminding his audience that currently, at least one in eight residents of western Massachusetts is at risk of hunger on any given day, week or month of the year. They are forced to make the difficult choice between paying for food and other vital resources, such as medicine, heat, rent or transportation. He shares stories of community members’ struggles with hunger, social service providers’ perspective of the underlying causes, and elected officials’ efforts to change the political landscape.

It is his hope, as well as the hope of the Coalition to End Hunger, that beginning an open dialogue about food insecurity in our community is the first step in raising public awareness about its damaging effects, and reversing the stigma associated with seeking food assistance.

In his own words, Monte is humbled by the generosity shown to him by supporters, and credits them for the continued success of this amazing event:

In 2010, when I set off on my first quixotic fool’s errand of pushing an empty shopping cart through The Valley, I didn’t even know if I would physically be able to walk 26 miles in one day. I just hoped we could use the radio, and this ridiculous publicity stunt, to shine a light on hunger in Western Mass and maybe raise a few thousand dollars to help fight food insecurity here. If you had told me then that The March would eventually extend to 43 miles in 3 counties over 2 days, and would include 3 U.S. Congresspeople, dozens of listeners, school groups, marching bands, children’s book authors and knights in shining armor, I would CERTAINLY think the mission had become quixotic. But over these last nine Marches, we have done more than tilt at windmills. This year, The March crossed the $1 million dollar mark for The Food Bank of Western Mass. That means together we have raised enough money for THREE MILLION MEALS for the 1 in 8 people in need in our four counties. We could not have done this without you. Whether your donation was large or small, from a place of abundance or from knowing what it’s like to not know when your next meal is coming, each contribution mattered. This March, and even this Food Bank, has not yet found a solution to ending hunger in our area, but, thanks to you, maybe we put a dent in its armor. I am so thankful to you for supporting this madness of a March. But as Don Quixote said, it’s “maddest of all to see life as it is, and not as it should be.” No one should be hungry. And thanks to you, through this March, tomorrow someone will not be hungry.

With thanks and love,