NEW PORT RICHEY — Hunger is a global problem. But who knew that simply walking could help reduce the hunger problem in our community?
Last Saturday, One Community Now put on the Chasco Fiesta Hunger Walk. The money raised from the event went toward two local hunger-fighting programs, Pack A Sack 4 Kids and the Pasco County Elderly Nutrition program.
About 430 people came out to walk for the causes, and they ended up reaching their goal of $50,000. The walkers each had sponsors who donated money as they walked laps around the track at Gulf High School’s Des Little Stadium.
Many of the walkers came to represent groups, organizations, schools, and churches, including Community Congregational Church, the New Port Richey Library Youth, Pasco Tax Collector’s Office and Paul R. Smith Middle School.
In Pasco, more than 36,000 young people have families that struggle to provide food every day. Pack A Sack 4 Kids is a program that works with local schools to send underprivileged kids home every weekend with a drawstring bag full of food. Over holidays and vacations, they receive several bags. The program began in Pinellas and has spread to over 10 local schools here.
Chris Clayton, the principle of Gulfside Elementary School, in Holiday, has seen how the food and nourishment provided by Pack A Sack to 85 students has helped the kids be more successful in their schoolwork.
“It really makes a difference in the classroom,” Clayton said.
“The magnitude of the needy families in our county is much larger than I knew before,” said Amanda Dipadua, a staff member at Generations Christian Church, one of the many supporters of the Pack A Sack program.
In Pasco, almost 15,000 struggling seniors are in need of daily, hot meals. Pasco County Elderly Nutrition staff bring meals to senior citizens who are homebound. Most of their work is through their Meals On Wheels programs. This program helps to feed 800 seniors every week in Pasco County, five days a week.
Karen Cecofijilio, the county’s Elderly Nutrition program supervisor, believes that the walk will help educate people about the unknown needs that are out there. “It gains awareness for the need in this county,” Cecofijilio said. “To know that the need is out there for seniors.”
The Hunger Walk offered several activities for young nonwalkers, such as a cupcake walk, face painting, a hula-hoop contest and a bounce house.
The event included several vendors of the many sponsors, including Farrell Roofing, Evolution weight loss, Walgreens, Trinity College, Sugardarlings Cones and Cupcakes, and Conforti’s Crossroads Chiropractic Center.
The largest fundraising group was the Rotary Club of Seven Springs, which took in $5,000. The largest individual fundraiser was Gabriel Papadopolous, the Pasco Elderly Nutrition manager, with $3,000.
Patty Templeton, the executive director of One Community Now, believes that the walk will raise awareness.
“Our goal is that they learn about the hunger needs in our county for both children and senior citizens.” Templeton said. “Because as people are educated and understand what’s going on, they want to help.”
Rhonda Holloway, a walker from Greater Life Family Church, said that the walk opened her eyes to how large a problem hunger really is in the community. She was astounded to read facts about the local hunger problem posted on signs that were placed around the track.
One sign read, “From 2001 to 2011, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger increased by 88 percent.”
“It really puts it into perspective,” Holloway said.