Global humanitarian agency Church World Service announced on Tuesday that it expects some 2,000 communities to join in hunger walks in the coming year under the banner of CROP: Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty.
This month marks the 60th anniversary of CROP -- the community hunger appeal of Church World Service-and the beginning of the CROP Hunger Walk season in the United States in which tens of thousands of people will sacrifice a few hours (and a blister or two) to raise money and show solidarity with impoverished people struggling to become self-sufficient. The CROP Walkers' motto: We walk because they walk!
CROP Hunger Walks are unique in that proceeds benefit both domestic and international poverty-reducing efforts.
"It still surprises some Americans that there are people here in the richest nation in the world who go to bed hungry because they cannot afford to buy food," says Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director and CEO of Church World Service. "These local CROP Hunger Walks, organized by individuals and faith communities in cities and towns all across the U.S., raise awareness about hunger and give people a way to help both in their own communities and around the world."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture report "Household Food Security in the United States, 2005," 11 percent of U.S. homes did not have access "to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members" at least some time during the year.
In what has become an annual tradition in the thousands of communities that participate, an interfaith, multi-cultural collection of CROP walkers encourage friends, neighbors, colleagues, merchants and places of worship to donate dollars to support their participation in walks of up to 10 km. Participants, with their readily identifiable red and white signs, range in age from babies in strollers to seniors -- and even the occasional jogger.
The first-ever CROP Walks took place in the late 1960s. Over the decades since, more than 5 million walkers have raised millions to fight hunger.
Up to a quarter of the money donated to CROP Hunger Walk is returned to the community where it was raised to help local soup kitchens and food pantries.
"These walkers and the food pantries and soup kitchens they help support are a blessing. Together, they represent the caring hands of a community reaching out to help neighbors-and often strangers -- who are in crisis or whose way is hard," says Rev. McCullough.
Globally, Church World Service supports a broad range of poverty fighting projects in some 80 countries. They include the digging of wells and cisterns in villages in Africa and Palestine to improve local access to water; programs in several Latin America countries to help children living in extreme poverty who are vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation; income producing programs for impoverished Roma families, in Serbia; and community development projects with poor women in rural Bangladesh.
CROP Hunger Walks link the lives of people in the U.S. with impoverished people around the world. As one Walker, Peter Boddie of Foothills, Colo., notes, "There's genius in CROP Hunger Walks. People come together at the community level to walk and the funds are put to work by local agencies on the ground in various countries and in the USA. It's grassroots at both ends, and we're all connected through Church World Service!"
To find out about a CROP Hunger Walk near you or for help organizing your own CROP Hunger Walk, call your CWS Regional Office at 888-CWS-CROP (888 297-2767). Visit the Ohio office online here. CROP Walks are slated for several northwest Ohio communities -- including Findlay, Bucyrus, Galion, Defiance, Bowling Green and Toledo -- on Oct. 7. Stay tuned for details!