Expanded Monte’s March Doubles Last Year’s Haul
The Recorder, November 24, 2015 by Tom Relihan
DEERFIELD — When Northampton radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte met with residents of the Mason Square neighborhood in Springfield about food insecurity they were facing, he found that many of them did not live within walking distance of a large supermarket.
“This is happening at a time when Northampton has a ton of mainline supermarkets 17 miles north and they’re trying to put more in Easthampton,” Belmonte said.
So, when planning the sixth annual Monte’s March, which has become an annual event joined by area politicians and other civic leaders, he decided to expand it to add a second day’s walk covering that distance, too, beginning in Springfield and spanning the entire length of the Pioneer Valley.
“It’s all fallen on deaf ears, and most of our listening audience is in Northampton and north of there, so I decided to shine a light on that listening audience,” Belmonte said outside Seymour on Bank Row in Greenfield, where the walk ended around 6:15 p.m Tuesday. “The best way was to walk those 17 miles.”
All together, the campaign raised about $150,000, Belmonte said. That’s a little over double what was raised last year, he said.
“I’m shocked and humbled by how well it went. It’s great to be a small cog in the great big machine that this community has built around social and food justice issues,” he said.
Over the course of the march, Belmonte said the procession was joined by members of about 15 different organizations. The Recorder caught up with Belmonte’s entourage outside Chandler’s Tavern.
“I’m out here supporting the Food Bank of Western Mass. because unfortunately we wish everyone had good jobs and good incomes, but that’s not the way it is and too many people can’t make ends meet,” said John Waite, the executive director of the Franklin County Community Development Corp. as the procession left Yankee Candle’s parking lot and turned onto Routes 5 and 10 toward Greenfield.
“The food bank supplies the pantries and the food banks in many of the counties in western Massachusetts so it’s important that they raise some funds to do that,” he said.
Waite said the CDC and Food Bank working together to encourage economic development, food access and awareness stands to lift up the entire community.
Over the course of the two days, Belmonte and his group, which included Congressman Jim McGovern, Food Bank Executive Director Andrew Morehouse, and Congressman Joe Kennedy III, walked over 40 miles.
“I think this is an incredible event that Monte has organized to help people. There are tens of millions of people in our country who are hungry. We live in the richest country in the history of the planet and I’m ashamed of the fact that so many people are hungry,” said McGovern, trekking the home stretch to Greenfield. “I believe that the federal government and the state government needs to do more. We all need to see what we can do to step it up and make sure the people who live in our community don’t fall through the cracks. We have the food, we have the money, but we don’t have the political will.”
Steve Fendell of Gill joined the march in Sunderland on Tuesday. He said he’d become interested in food security issues after deciding to retrofit a bus to accommodate a kitchen with a group of friends to distribute free food to people in major cities.
“It’s just what we do,” he said of joining the walk. “When you share food in the cities, one of the saddest things is how many people are dependent upon the missions. They have no choice in what they’re going to eat and no choice of when they’re going to eat. The mere thing of being able to get the food and take it home and decide how and when to cook it is an amazing thing.”
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provides individuals facing hunger with the food they need to survive and works to unite the emergency food network in our region. Serving Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, The Food Bank is the leading distributor of emergency food that reaches individuals and families with lower incomes in the region.
You can reach Tom Relihan at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264 On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom