Last week I saw a man in a Hunger Walk T-shirt. That in and of itself isn’t noteworthy. Last month, a woman in front of me at the grocery store was wearing a T-shirt from the 2007 Walk. And a few weeks before that, I noticed a man on the treadmill at my gym wearing a volunteer shirt from the 2009 event.
But this wasn’t my local grocery, the gym, or any of the other sites across Cook County where I’ve seen Hunger Walk T-shirts. Instead, this man in this Hunger Walk T-shirt was in the heart of Austin, a neighborhood torn apart by gang rivalries and poverty. The man neared a street corner carrying a bag that I knew probably came from a food pantry – plastic with sturdy handles and filled with groceries.
There are many reasons why people participate in the Hunger Walk. They walk for children and older adults. They walk for parents who are struggling to make ends meet. They walk for neighbors – they “do it for Chicago.” But as I watched the gentleman in the Hunger Walk T-shirt, I was reminded that one of the most sobering – and, indeed, most important parts of this event – is that some of the walkers who will join us on Saturday are actually walking for themselves.
The Food Depository’s Hunger Walk – 27 years and tens of thousands of people strong – is the rare event that gives a voice and opportunity to the very people we serve. As the light changed and my car moved through the intersection, I was reminded that the strength of this event is in the people who join us. They come from all walks of life – men, women, children, older adults, people who sprint the entire 5K course and people who rely on wheelchairs. They are current and past employees of the Greater Chicago Food Depository as well as regular volunteers. They are members of corporate walking teams and faith-based organizations. They are elected officials, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. They are Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party members and Occupy members. They are the food secure – those of us who have never faced the pressing worry of where we would get the food for our next meal. And, as I was reminded last week, they are also the food insecure – one of the more than 807,000 men, women and children in our community who struggles daily with hunger.
That is the power and the promise of our event – and our work. Together we can walk, and together we can build a world that is hunger free. So, this Saturday, as I join my colleagues, friends, family and fellow advocates at the 27th Annual Hunger Walk, I’ll remember the gentleman I saw at the corner of Laramie Avenue and Lake Street and remember that we don’t just walk for him – we walk with him. Visit www.chicagosfoodbank.org/hungerwalk to support the walk.