By Tina Bryson
MOUNT VERNON, Ky. – Hunger still walks among us and Christian Appalachian Project’s Grateful Bread Food Pantry partnered with the community in its 9th Annual Hunger Walk. The event is held each September to educate the public during Hunger Awareness Month. Last year, more than 1,300 walkers participated but due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event was virtual.
“It was important to continue to bring awareness to hunger-related issues in Appalachia,” said Sherri Barnett, manager of CAP’s pantry. “We decided to have a virtual event to allow people to support this initiative whether they live in Rockcastle County or anywhere in the country. One in four children in Rockcastle struggle with food insecurity and our vulnerable seniors face challenges with having enough food. The Hunger Walk reminds us that we can all make a difference when we come together.”
Community leadership showed their support by participating in a symbolic walk. Each walker this year represented 100 walkers that would have attended the in-person event. Walkers included Mt. Vernon Mayor Mike Bryant, Rockcastle County Judge Executive Howell Holbrook, Pastor Dennis Wilder of First Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County School Superintendent Carrie Ballinger, Rockcastle County High School Principal J.D. Bussell, and Berea Wal-Mart Grocery Manager Tammy Kirby, Lynn Tatum with the Rockcastle Chamber of Commerce, and God’s Pantry Food Bank CEO Mike Halligan.
“I can’t express how proud I am to partner with CAP” said Superintendent Ballinger. “When we had to close schools in March we really didn’t know how we were getting food to our families in need. We knew it was important to get food to our communities. Our motto this year is to educate, feed, and support. And CAP helps us feed and support our families.”
Each year, Rockcastle County schoolchildren have done their part to raise awareness in the community. They annually host food drives to collect non-perishable food items, students have volunteered at the pantry, and high schoolers have hosted a Hunger Banquet to illustrate the impact of food insecurity among their peers.
Grateful Bread Food Pantry is doing its part to meet needs in the community. In Rockcastle County the food insecurity rate is 16.4 percent or nearly 3,000 people. Every week, CAP employees and volunteers pack 104 weekend food backpacks that are distributed through Rockcastle County Schools. Additionally, in the last fiscal year, CAP distributed 35,000 pounds of food each month to families through the food pantry and to elderly individuals through commodity distribution.
CEO Halligan expressed his gratitude for events like the Hunger Walk. “This work doesn’t happen if it doesn’t happen in the neighborhood. We end hunger because of folks like you who want to make a difference. CAP makes a difference in Appalachia. Across Kentucky there are about 650,000 people who are food insecure. Because of COVID-19, that number has grown locally and in the nation. It’s daunting,” Halligan said. “We need to close the meal gap to know that every family that needs a meal on a given day has that meal.”
To close that meal gap just in Rockcastle County for those 3,000 people at $2.60 per meal would cost $1.3 million, and that’s before COVID-19. “The circumstances we are living in are unprecedented. But the faith and desire that we all have to make a difference stands well above. Thank you all for the work you do. You are part of a movement that will make an impact.”